In The Father, Anthony Hopkins sizzles with his signature cerebral acting style. But here, he isn’t someone with a highly functioning acumen. Quite the opposite in fact. He is an aging father who is slowly but surely descending into dementia. The movie is poignant in the way it shows both the progression of the disease and the changing life of the caregivers around the affected person. Olivia Colman is brilliant as Anne, the daughter who struggles to make sense of her father’s rapidly evolving perspectives on what is real and what isn’t. It’s a tear jerker. If you are trying to learn more about dementia and mental illnesses or just need to relate to someone with a mental illness, here are some more touching movies like The Father.
6 Poignant Movies like The Father (2021)
1 Still Alice (2014)
Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor. She has a fantastic career, a great family with three kids and a wonderful husband. Then, she begins to forget a few words here and there. A few become a lot. A formal diagnosis tells her she has an early onset of Alzheimer’s. What follows is a heart wrenching portrayal of how Alice’s world crumbles around her and within her own mind. She knows that life as she knows it will soon come to an end, as her mental degeneration progresses. But, instead of despairingly succumbing to the debilitating illness, she vows to make peace with herself and appreciate the love from her family, while she still can. Julianne Moore brilliantly showcases a myriad of emotions like anger, pain, confusion, loneliness, helplessness and tenacity. Alec Baldwin does very well in a supporting husband’s role.
This movie is an emotional rollercoaster and you should definitely only watch it when you have the time and patience to appreciate and recover from some very emotional movie making.
2 The Savages (2007)
The Savages is about John (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wendy Savage (Laura Linney), a brother and sister. They haven’t had any contact with their abusive father for 20 years. In fact, they haven’t had much contact with each other as well. But, suddenly, they are entrusted with the responsibility to care for him, after he is diagnosed with dementia. The siblings are far less than perfect. But, most people are in the real world. The movie is very telling in how it shows two ordinary people trying to cope with the challenge that is to be a caregiver to someone with dementia, a formerly abusive father no less.
It will show you how we can all find compassion when there really is no reason to find it. Philip Bosco plays Lenny Savage, the surly father. A fantastic movie that is quite underrated and didn’t get the attention it deserved.
3 Away from Her (2006)
Away from Her is about mental illness. It is also about love and sacrifice. A husband struggles with the loss of his wife to institutionalization. But, when she falls in love with another man while at the nursing home, he realizes an epiphany. It shows how sometimes letting go of someone is the truest act of love one can really perform.
Julie Christie, Michael Murphy and Gordon Pinsent are all brilliant in their roles. The movie will leave you feeling positive about how the repercussions of mental illness can be construed with optimism and hope as opposed to desolation.
4 Iris (2001)
Iris follows the beautiful love story between famed British writer Iris Murdoch (Kate Winslet (Young), Judi Dench (Old)) and John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville (Young), Jim Broadbent (Old)), her husband. The director beautifully takes you through a journey where the two contrasting personalities fall in love. 40 years later, Iris is a pale comparison of her former intellectual self. She needs assistance to perform even the simplest of tasks. But, always by her side is her loving and caring husband. The movie juggles three different timelines, much like how The Father played with timelines. But, it is a deliberate attempt by the director to give you a peek into the shifting mind of someone affected by Alzheimer’s.
Judi Dench is simply spectacular as the aging Iris and Kate Winslet brilliantly portrays a confident and extraordinary personality that the young Iris Murdoch was.
The movie is about love, caregiving and helping you understand how life can completely transcend when affected by mental illness.
5 A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Another movie based on a true story. Here, you see a portrayal of the life of John Nash, one of the world’s most acclaimed mathematicians. Russell Crowe delivers an astonishing performance as a young but prodigious mathematician who tries to find his calling in his field. Just when he begins to make waves with his brilliant and unconventional thinking, he accepts work for the Government, in a secret Cryptography project. Unfortunately, this is when John’s life descends into chaos. Affected by Schizophrenia, he begins to see imaginary characters. He is unable to care for his wife and daughter and is obsessed by extraordinary happenings of secret agents and their dangerous agendas in a parallel world only he is privy to.
But, John is eventually able to overcome it, with time, even though Schizophrenia continued to affect him until he died. Jennifer Connelly is great as Alicia Nash, the wife who goes to great lengths to accommodate John’s deteriorating mental faculties. The movie won 4 Oscars and is perhaps one of the most well known movies about mental illnesses.
6 Rain Man (1988)
Rain Man offers a very different perspective on mental illness. Here, Tom Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt. Charlie is a selfish yuppie who has only one thing on his mind – money. So, when Charlie finds out that his rich dead father left him nothing but a convertible, he is furious. Adding to his frustration is him learning of the fact that his father left $3 Million to Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic brother he did not even know about. Charlie kidnaps Raymond to try to convince him to part with his money. But, Raymond doesn’t even know what money is.
While on a road trip, Charlie also discovers that Raymond is insanely good at performing complex mathematics on the fly, something he exploits to make money. But, as the relationship progresses, even the very selfish Charlie begins to relate to Raymond’s different world, one affected by severe autism. It’s not quite a caregiver movie. But, it does end on a very positive note and will leave you feeling encouraged and heartened about mental illness.
While all of these movies like The Father might give you insights into what mental illness can mean for a patient and their family, they can never provide a complete picture of the life of a patient and their family affected by a debilitating mental condition. If you want to learn more about a particular mental illness and the circumstances around it, we suggest that you read a lot of medical publications and also join support groups and forums to hear from patients and family, firsthand.