August 28, 2021
Florian Zeller’s heart-rending film The Father is the latest in a spate of recent works tackling the condition and its effects on the family
Streaming: The Father and other films about dementia
First shown way back at Sundance in January last year, and repeatedly delayed by the pandemic, The Father waited an awfully long time for its moment in cinemas, and when it finally arrived – buoyed up by glowing reviews and two big Oscar wins – not that many people went to see it. After a year spent largely away from cinemas, Florian Zeller’s solemn, uncompromising, ingeniously structured chamber drama about the ravages of dementia wasn’t most people’s idea of a summer night out, no matter how good Anthony Hopkins is in it. (Which is to say very, very extraordinarily so: his Oscar may have been controversially unexpected, but it was not undeserved.) “I’ll wait to watch it at home,” said a number of Friends to whom I recommended the film: now, on Amazon and the like, they can.
But I don’t think it was just the film’s seriousness that made people shy to see it. The specific subject matter of dementia yields such strong emotions – connected, for so many of us, to painful personal experience – that we worry we won’t be able to hold it together in the public space of the cinema. (I doubt I would have: I first saw Zeller’s film at home, during one of last year’s lockdowns, and wept into my duvet for some time afterwards.) For all the advantages that the big screen has over the small, the films that place us in a vulnerable position can sometimes benefit from the privacy of streaming.
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