Looking Forwards, Looking… #cinema #TheFather

I can still remember my first trip to the cinema. The Astoria in Purley. A double bill of East of Eden and HG Wells’ First Men In The Moon.

We only went because my brother wanted to, having read the original. He moaned it was nothing like the book. Took the gloss off the experience in truth, but it didn’t stop it sticking in my mind. The queuing, the smells, the odd red edged torches of the usherettes as they showed us to our seats, the mind expanding sight of the big screen as the curtains rolled back. It was really a sensory overload, so much so I doubt I’ll forget it

Yesterday we went back to the cinema for the first time in 15 months. We wore masks, queued at a respectful distance, entered the auditorium via a door I didn’t know existed to ensure a one way system was followed (mind you, this was as nothing to the weird way out that took us via the neighbouring cemetery…) and took our seats with nervous glances around. It felt like a first time of sorts and I doubt I’ll forget this one either, for very different reasons (though cinemas still seen to have their own odour… and the adverts remain self indulgent wastes of time…)

The Father.

And then we settled in to this challenging, compelling film. Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots give a tour de force in truth but this is entertainment on the edge. It’s a hard watch.

Any film about dementia tends to play about with time to give the audience some understanding of the sufferer’s experiences, but the director probably achieved this as well as any I’ve seen. And it hurts. As it happens a close relative is experiencing the early stages of these most crushing of diseases so there were a number of poignant and breath stopping moments of recognition and realisation. One of the genius elements in this film is to communicate the terrifying disconnect this disease wrings out of the sufferer. We rely so much on the use of memories to tell our story, to give context. We take a memory and build from it and on it and the journey that is our lives make some sort of sense. We remember the family home, the move away to work or study, the shared flats with friends, the homes we move through. But if something goes missing, if one move conflates with another how do you root yourself? In my experience the loss of that connection leads to many moments of untangilable confusion and Hopkins has the same problem, one we gradually unpick, in ways he can never do.

The devotion of the daughter, the pain for her, the difficulties of her husband trying not to blame and yet… it all held me captive.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t really enjoy it. Not in the sense of being uplifted, taken to another place. No, that’s not quite true. I was taken deeper into places I’d prefer not to go, but I’m so glad I went. It gave me a certain clarity, a way of thinking I’d perhaps ignored up to now. Films aren’t just entertainment or education; they can be self revelatory too.

It’s a fantastic film but not one if you’re looking for escapism, to be taken to a happy place. But if you’ve seen dementia first hand and want help understanding it, or want as good a way of accessing some of its pitfalls and pratfalls, then this will be a must for two hours. If they allow it, take wine… or ice cream. You’ll want a treat…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to Looking Forwards, Looking… #cinema #TheFather

  1. Ritu says:

    I’d love to watch this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. willowdot21 says:

    I have read up on this film. Hard watching. We also have close relatives suffering from this evil dIsease. It’s a thief.
    As for the cinima still not sure I am ready 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trifflepudling says:

    I sometimes wonder why they make such films about difficult and depressing experiences. Reality is enough. It might be helpful but people all have differing experiences, severity, circumstances etc and there’s not usually a Hollywood uplifting ending. Anyway, hope it was helpful.
    The Moon film would be my preference.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. KL Caley says:

    Great post. I am an Olivia Coleman fan but it does sound like a difficult watch. We actually had a cinema visit in October last year before lockdown 2 started but it was to see Hey Duggee, not quite as sophisticated 🙈. I have always treasured a trip to the cinema and looking forward to doing so again soon. KL ❤️


  5. I have some experience with hard to watch movies that are great somehow.
    Recall “Deliverance”. These flicks can be astounding, well acted & directed, not uplifting in the least but so memorable.
    Great review Geoff. I’ll watch for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review, Geoff. I know this is one I must see–for the cast, of course. Olivia Coleman has been a favorite since she was on Peep Show! But also for research, since a character in my current WIP has dementia. I’m not expecting a light-hearted romp–and will be sure to take wine! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A very difficult subject to watch, and even more so to live with. Having worked with many people living with dementia, walked, talked, eaten, laughed, and cried with them, it is plain to see that there is no normal in dementia’s symptoms. There is no set of rules that will help, no pre determined path for its progress. Each person remains an individual, as they have always been. I think Anthony Hopkins had a good improvising role in Red 2 that will have prepared him quite well for this role!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It’s quite the tour de force, this role. And yes, Peter it is true that is can be easy to forget the individual in the label. But for me, as one watching the early stages some of the echoes and the contextualisation of this performance helped.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    I have to admit, that it sounds like a movie I really wouldn’t want to see. I’m sure it’s good but I’m too close to dementia myself. Too close to home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I get that. We are in the earlier stages and it actually helped me, gave me some perspective but there will be many like you Jan. I’m wishing things were easier for you..


  9. petespringerauthor says:

    As someone who went through this with my mother, I have the deepest empathy for the entire family. I met some amazing caregivers with an incredible amount of patience and others who really should have been doing something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Isn’t that the truth. I think it’s the echoes that held me most, that and the way they captured how the sufferer saw it. Perhaps taking the personal out of it helped so much. I’m so sorry you went through this Pete. It’s really so very hard watching it develop.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Widdershins says:

    It’s tough viewing, but in a good way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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