Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony, the father of Anne, Olivia Colman. Anthony suffers from dementia and Anne has become his caretaker at the cost of her relationship. Anne is one of two of Anthony’s daughters, his least favorite and the only one still alive. The film is based on a play and takes place almost entirely inside of a London flat. Director Florian Zeller is also the author of the play. There is a wonderful classical music soundtrack under the entire film used to perfection to highlight what is going on inside of Anthony’s head.
I had two grandparents that suffered from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. I am just old enough to have memories of when my grandparents were lucid, my six-year younger sister does not. One of my grandmothers had to take care of her husband as his mind slipped away. My other grandmother suffered from dementia for years and ended up in a facility for around a decade. She was not much a part of my life once she was in an assisted living facility as we lived several states away. I have yet to have to care for a loved one suffering from these diseases.
Like One Night in Miami, this on-screen adaptation of the play expands the set enough that it justifies the big screen jump. The layout of the apartment never changes, but the furniture, pictures, and inhabitants do. We go through this film predominantly from Anthony’s perspective and question these subtle changes as they occur, always second-guessing if something did change. It is a master class in set decorating.
The film runs out of novel ways to show Anthony’s decline rather quickly. Moving objects around a room is a through-line, but sometimes it is more abrupt than subtle. The step changes are meant to be jarring but after the second abrupt change, it loses impact. The cast is swapped out several times, and after the first switch, it also loses its impact. The plot lines get confusing, and we shift around in time. This repeats several times. It is jarring, but I also don’t think it is how a person with dementia would perceive the world. They do not imagine people, they just struggle to remember who is who or how they know them. The film is not meant to show Anthony’s decline, it feels more like a way to show the stress and pain it causes Anne.
The film wraps up in a tight 97 minutes, so the repetition does not sink in while you are watching the film. Everything is shot and scored incredibly deliberately so it is a technically sound film. This is one take on aging parents with cognitive decline. It did not feel like a personal story from Zeller, but more of something dreamt up from reading about other people’s experiences. Trying to give Anthony’s perspective felt novel, but Anne is the character that people will relate to. If you were suffering a cognitive decline, you will not remember this film and be able to process how others are perceiving you. It is a new perspective; I just am not sure it was the right one to shoot from.