The Father’s ending scene features more twists and turns than might be expected from a dementia-oriented Anthony Hopkins vehicle, leaving audiences with a few questions by its conclusion. The film was Florian Zeller’s directorial debut, and it suddenly appeared on most viewers’ radar when Hopkins upset Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor at the conclusion of the 2021 Oscars ceremony. Controversy aside, Zeller’s The Father features a career-highlight performance from Hopkins, as well as an expertly plotted screenplay from Zeller, whose direction provides the film a perspective that connotes the perplexing artwork of M.C. Escher. But the story of the decorated 2020 film begins in 2012 with the premiere of Le Père.
Zeller wrote the play Le Père (in his native French), which garnered him widespread critical acclaim in the theatre community beginning in 2012. He had written The Father’s lead role of Anthony specifically for Hannibal Lecter’s Anthony Hopkins, believing him to be the “greatest living actor” (via Deadline). Anthony’s daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) is attempting to find a long-term care solution for her stubborn, but often confused, parent. The Father is told subjectively from Anthony’s point of view, affected by his dementia, making certain facts seem to change over the course of the narrative – to the audience as well as to Anthony. Such frustrations culminate in The Father’s ending scene.
What Happens In The Father’s Ending Scene?
By the end of The Father, Anthony’s flat has reached the end of its several iterations and become an assisted living facility, where he is cared for by his nurse Catherine (Olivia Williams) and her assistant Bill (Mark Gatiss). The Father has actors play multiple characters as a thematic representation of dementia; these caretakers are faces Anthony has seen before, having perceived his daughter and son-in-law each as bearing resemblance to Catherine and Bill at one point or another. At The Father’s ending, it’s clear Anthony’s hold on reality has slipped to the point where he no longer can muster the effort to even attempt to parse what of his memories are real and what are disjointed composites of his experiences.
In an emotionally gut-wrenching scene that forms the climax of the film, Anthony remembers his mother to Catherine and suddenly wishes to go home as tears overwhelm him. He confides in Catherine that he feels he is “losing all his leaves” in his twilight, and has become unmoored from the things which gave his life value. As he cries in Catherine’s arms, The Sixth Sense actress’ character settles him down and tells him he won’t remember this unpleasantness soon, that they’ll go for a walk later, and everything will be alright.
In the end, The Father’s camera ventures out his window, observing the trees whose leaves rustle in the wind. It’s a heartbreaking and personal moment in the film that elevates the emotional aspects of his character’s story, which is often filled with so much confusion, hazy memories, and a lot of uncertainty regarding what’s real and what isn’t. As if Anthony’s emotional monologue wasn’t enough to bring audiences to tears, The Father’s ending song is the chilling “My Journey,” an apt score for the film’s story.
What Was Real & What Was In Anthony’s Head In The Father
Because of the subjective, labyrinthine quality of The Father, it’s easy to wonder what actually happened to Anthony and what he imagined or erroneously put together in his mind. The Anthony Hopkins movie puts the patriarch at the forefront, entreating the audience to empathize with him in a way that mirrors the character’s feeling of being victimized by his surroundings. He frequently misremembers faces, particularly Anne as Catherine and Paul as Bill.
In one shot, he is smothered by Anne in his sleep. In another scene, Paul physically assaults him. In yet another, The Father’s title character discovers his daughter and son-in-law speaking ill of him, only to join them, leave, and return to the same scenario he first encountered. Certainly at a minimum, the smothering was imagined, given he lives through to the end of The Father, but it emphasizes the sense of vulnerability Anthony feels at the hands of Old actor Rufus Sewell’s Paul, who very well likely slapped him and spoke brazenly against him.
Then, there’s the matter of his midnight visit with his youngest daughter, Lucy. It’s implied that she had a serious accident and is likely deceased. Anthony, not being able to remember this on account of his dementia, continually brings up the subject, especially in reference to how much his most recent caretaker resembles her. In one of The Father’s later scenes, he explores the flat, finding it to have become a hospital where he finds Lucy, bloodied and in a brace, lying in a bed with all manner of medical machinery about her. He suddenly wakes from what was evidently a dream or memory, finding himself in his assisted care facility, where he will spend the remainder of the film.
The Father’s character Lucy being deceased makes sense considering how emotional Anthony gets when remembering her. What’s more, his treatment of his living daughter, Anne, is harsh, as though he’s angry at her for having survived while his more favored daughter is no longer around. There’s a gravity to these moments, though what can be parsed is that Anne is also at her wit’s end caring for her father, who is often cruel to her because of his dementia, but also his underlying resentment towards her and what happened to Lucy.
Did Anthony Die At The End Of The Father?
By the time he’s in the care of an assisted living facility, Anthony’s understanding of the world around him in The Father has deteriorated to the point of necessitating constant monitoring. The 2021 Oscars Best Picture nominee ends with the promise that he and Catherine will continue a routine that has clearly been ongoing, though the audience and Anthony wouldn’t be able to tell.
Despite the perceived obvious destination of a movie focusing on a parent with dementia, The Father’s last scene ends not on a shot of Anthony peacefully drifting into the afterlife, but instead on the trees outside his room. Though his fate is all but determined, The Father’s last scene has more to say about his final situation than merely whether he lived or died.
The Real Meaning Of The Father’s Ending
It’s difficult to find a positive takeaway in a story where the subject matter is as fundamentally terminal as The Father’s, but Zeller manages to support The Father’s meaning as a movie with the aid of a visual metaphor. As Catherine consoles a distraught and disconnected Sir Anthony Hopkins, she identifies the comfort of his condition: though he’s currently suffering under the weight of his ending, fortunately, his dementia means not remembering his suffering. Instead of fighting against old age or finding some obvious affirming ending in which his daughter stays with him through the bitter end, Zeller approaches dementia moment by moment, with Catherine encouraging Anthony to focus on what’s immediate to him.
Ultimately, people grow old, and children need to live their lives. It’s also interesting in the way The Father tackles memories, with Anthony mostly losing himself in the moments that brought him emotional pain — he’s often terrified, heartbroken, scared of being attacked because of his confusion, or feeling out of place. To that end, The Father’s meaning is deep because of the way it explores dementia as a labyrinthian trip through the mind of someone who has it.
At the end of actor Anthony Hopkins’ The Father, the tree still has its leaves, and perhaps that’s the most optimistic statement on Anthony’s condition of all. He lived a life, regardless of whether it’d be considered good or bad (or both) and the tree’s leaves are indicative of growing and blossoming in life, as it cycles on no matter what.
Why Anthony Hopkins Won Best Actor For The Father
Through and through, The Father would not have worked without a performance as compelling as that of Sir Anthony Hopkins. Whether or not The Father should have earned a Best Picture win is another conversation, but it’s undeniable that Hopkins’ infuriating, terrifying, and heartbreaking portrayal of a man’s struggle with dementia was the driving factor in the movie’s success. On the other hand, this can’t necessarily be said about Hopkins’ competitors for 2021’s Oscar award for Best Actor.
The other nominees in the category were Riz Ahmed for The Sound of Metal, Steven Yeun for Minari, Gary Oldman for Mank, and Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. While these actors were phenomenal in their respective films, the successes of their movies arguably weren’t primarily hinged on their performances, as was the case for Anthony Hopkins. Despite the controversy over whether Chadwick Boseman should have won, Anthony Hopkins was undeniably deserving of the Best Actor award for his powerful performance in The Father, particularly for the poignant ending scene that can bring even the most cynical of viewers to tears.
The Father Final Scene Explained By The Director
Zeller reteamed with The Father’s Anthony Hopkins for the movie The Son which serves as a companion piece to this one. The two working together again is not surprising given their obviously successful collaboration with The Father. Zeller (via: Esquire) specifically talked about working with Hopkins and Olivia Colman on their final scene and the importance of it. With the entire story hinging on this ending, Zeller explains that “we shot that scene slightly nervous, also, because we knew that the emotions that we were supposed to reach were raw, brutal, truthful, and not easy to get. It was a very intense moment for us.” Zeller also asked the actors not to rehearse so they could arrive at the emotional moments on camera.
Once Olivia Colman leaves the movie and Anthony has his final breakdown, the line he delivers about “losing all my leaves” was also a vital part of the scene for Zeller. Just as the nurse doesn’t understand what Anthony is saying with this line, Zeller admits he wrote it as a line that doesn’t really mean anything, yet at the same time, the audience would understand exactly what Anthony is trying to communicate. He explained that the line was meant to sum up what the entire experience of the movie should have been for the audience, “you are not understanding what is going on, and at the same time, on another level, emotionally, you understand everything.”