A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Father is an excellent -- but at times upsetting -- drama about a man suffering with Alzheimer's. Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star as father and daughter, Anthony and Anne, with Anthony being diagnosed with the disease. Scenes are shown from his perspective and are purposefully disjointed and confusing to reflect his mental state. There are heartbreaking moments that are difficult to watch, including Anthony being slapped in the face, and him breaking down in a care home. Occasional strong language includes "f--k" and "s--t." Characters do drink alcohol but only in moderation. The movie is a clever and sensitive exploration into a cruel disease, but may be upsetting and confusing for younger viewers.
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What's the story?
In THE FATHER, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is introduced as a smart, charming older man living in a London flat, which his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) visits regularly. But that version of reality is gradually challenged as it is revealed Anthony is suffering from Alzheimer's and his account of events is not always reliable. As the past, present, and elements of fantasy collide, Anthony struggles to make sense of his changing reality, which seems more and more at odds with his experience.
Is it any good?
Oscar-winner Hopkins gives one of the finest performances of his career as a man slowly losing his grip on reality and experiencing the full cycle of emotions that come with that. In some scenes in The Father, he's the vivid, charming, cultured man of a not-so-distant past. But in others, he's angry and defiant, then in a moment scared and childlike in his need to be soothed. Fellow Academy Award-winner Colman beautifully portrays the pain and frustration of managing the situation, in which help is constantly refused and her motives often questioned. She herself fluctuates between pandering, correcting, and losing control of her own anger.
The genius of the film really lies in its structure and casting. In his debut feature as director, Florian Zeller adapts his own stage play for the screen, making clever choices that leave the audience as disorientated as Anthony's character. One of those is having different actors play the same role, so that when Anthony doesn't recognize his daughter, the audience experiences the same dissociation. Even within the flat where Anthony lives, furniture subtly changes, timeframes shift, and apparent strangers appear as if from nowhere -- some of the most heartbreaking moments coming when he refuses to react for fear he can't possibly explain. It's an incredibly difficult watch at times, but Hopkins' performance makes the film such an intimate and compelling experience that it's hard to look away.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Alzheimer's disease is portrayed in The Father. What are some of the techniques used to show how Anthony is experiencing events? How does the movie shed light on Alzheimer's? How does Anthony's diagnosis impact him and his family?
What do you think is the appeal of sad movies like this one? Why do we like to watch movies about tragedy and hardship? What can we take away from these emotional experiences?
Talk about the language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
- In theaters: February 26, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: March 25, 2021
- Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell
- Director: Florian Zeller
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some strong language, and thematic material
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, BAFTA, Common Sense Media Award
- Last updated: August 16, 2021
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