The Father real life: Is The Father a true story?

The Father: Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in trailer

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The Father stars Sir Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman as a father and daughter going through one of the toughest challenges life can offer. As Olivia’s character tries her best to help her ailing father, the audience is shown the mind of Anthony, who is struggling to know where and sometimes who he is. But is the story of The Father based on real life?

Is The Father a true story?

According to director Florian Zeller, while the story of The Father is not a true one per se, it is inspired by his own upbringing with his grandmother.

Florian said: “The Father was a play I wrote about eight years ago and it was a personal story because I was raised by my grandmother – she was almost my mother – and she suffered from dementia when I was 15.

“So when I wrote it, it was a lot about trying to connect with those emotions that I went through…”

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Despite there being a personal history for Florian, the story also stretches further than that, as he hoped the audience would find themselves in the mind of the main character, Anthony (Sir Anthony Hopkins.)

He continued: “It was something very universal as a story, as everyone has a father or will have to deal with this kind of dilemma… ‘What do you do with the people you love when they are starting to suffer with dementia?’

“I wanted to keep what was in the play, the narrative, to tell the story from the inside and put the audience in an active position as if they were in the main character’s head.

“This was what I really wanted to keep from the play… The Father is a bit more than a story but an experience as if you were the one who was losing their bearings.”

There are also real-life elements for the cast, who had their own experiences with the elderly but in very different ways.

For Olivia Colman, her mother was an NHS nurse, so this story had a very personal connection with her own upbringing.

She said: “My mum was a district nurse for the NHS for 40 years and her passion was geriatric care.

“When she was a district nurse I would go in the car with her on school holidays or if I was ill, and I would see lonely people in their homes when they didn’t have family around them…

“My mum’s an ambassador for dementia care so it’s always been a big part of my family’s life and the people she has cared for.”

For Sir Anthony, trying to help ailing parents was also something he had experience with, as he tried to care for his own father.

He said: “The reality was for me, when I read the first few pages, the opening scene.

“There was a belligerence in the character that was so close to me because my father, who died slowly of heart disease, had a year of decline from a major heart attack and depression.

“He just put his hand up like that and he would be very short-tempered with my mother and she would cry.

“And the ‘I’m not going to leave my flat,’ [line from in The Father] my father was a tough old guy but he was frightened, and he could give me a look which would freeze me.

“He was not cruel but he was tough…”

Sir Anthony was describing his confusion in the first scene of the film, and later, his character is unkind and aggressive towards his daughter in his confusion.

He added: “It was easy for me to remember that, and to be my own father in a way, when he would suddenly cry and I couldn’t stand being around it because two men and your father is crying – I don’t know what‘s wrong with the male mind that it’s so embarrassing and terrifying.”

The film shows a man struggling with dementia in a powerful way, while his daughter tries to do the best for him.

However, there are moments where it is unclear who people are and the course of events even for the viewer, written in such a way by Florian so as to help the audience understand The Father’s condition.

The Father is in US cinemas on February 26, while it is released in the UK on June 11

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