Crisis, Christ and Comfort

More reflections on faith and “The Father”

There is no question that the West is obsessed with youth. Everything seems geared to the young, while the elderly are ignored, overlooked or even treated as non-persons far too often. Sadly even many churches have fallen into this trap. I am obviously getting old, so lately I have been writing much more about things like ageing, death and dying.

Having had a wife who recently passed away after a lengthy cancer battle has also of course contributed to this. And given that perhaps the majority of my readers here are no longer spring chickens, I guess I will be doing more such pieces in the days ahead.

“The Father” revisited

I recently wrote a piece about a film I had stumbled upon which made quite an impact on me, only though I managed to only see just a small portion of it. It was about the horrid disease of dementia. I refer to the 2020 film The Father starring Anthony Hopkins as a dementia patient struggling with his situation. My article is found here:

As I said in that piece, I really must try to view the entire film. And sure enough, and just as much by accident as with my first partial viewing, I happened upon it on television again just yesterday, so I managed to now see almost the whole film, except for a small bit at the beginning.

It really is an incredibly moving and hard to watch movie. I could not watch it without being moved to tears so often. It is a difficult film to view. Sometimes I had to just look out my window at the blue skies, sunshine and green stuff for a bit of a respite.

As I had said previously, it is interesting that Hopkins has recently decided to abandon his atheism and quit drinking. He may not yet be a Christian, but we can pray to that end. Also of interest, Hopkins had starred in a version of Shadowlands, the story of C. S. Lewis and his relationship with Joy Davidman who was briefly his wife before succumbing to cancer. (Many Christians however have said that the 1985 version of that film starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom was much better – being truer to the Christian beliefs of Lewis, etc.)

Let me mention a few things folks had said about my prior piece, and then look at the film a bit further.

A few folks who had seen the film said they found it to be confusing. Well, yes, that makes perfect sense for the simple reason that unlike many other films dealing with tough subjects like this, this one presents things from the perspective of a dementia sufferer – a person who is very confused indeed. The film beautifully shows us the confusion and chaos and difficulties of a person struggling with this disease.

Another person was worried that it was a sad movie. Well of course it was sad, given that the subject matter is incredibly sad and tragic. Being a faithful and realistic account of this dreadful disease, it is sad throughout. While I know the person who had mentioned this is not this way, there are far too many Christians who prefer to live with their heads in the sand. They just want happy and cheerful stuff, and want nothing to do with anything icky and unpleasant.

A few more things can be said about the film. I only learned after I did my first piece on it that Hopkins actually went on to win the award for Best Actor at the 93rd Academy Awards. The Wiki piece on the film says this in part about the critical response to it:

Anthony Hopkins’s performance attracted widespread critical acclaim, with some calling it the finest of his career. He won his second Academy Award for Best Actor at age 83, making him the oldest Best Actor winner.


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 98% of 292 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Led by stellar performances and artfully helmed by writer-director Florian Zeller, The Father presents a devastatingly empathetic portrayal of dementia.” Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 88 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. According to PostTrak, 84% of audience members gave the film a positive score, with 54% saying they would definitely recommend it.


Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman said “The Father does something that few movies about mental deterioration in old age have brought off in quite this way, or this fully. It places us in the mind of someone losing his mind—and it does so by revealing that mind to be a place of seemingly rational and coherent experience.” For The Guardian, Benjamin Lee wrote of Hopkins’s performance: “It’s astounding, heartbreaking work, watching him try to rationally explain to himself and those around him what he’s experiencing. In some of the film’s most quietly upsetting moments, his world has shifted yet again but he remains silent, knowing that any attempt to question what he’s woken up to will only fall on deaf ears. Hopkins runs the full gamut of emotions from fury to outrage to longing for his mother like a little child and never once does it feel like a constructed character bit, despite our association with him as an actor with a storied career.”

As far as getting some commentary and discussion on the film, two resources can be mentioned. Someone had pointed me to this 60-minutes discussion of the film. It covers a lot of important ground, although I found the AI-like voice of the narrator to be a bit off-putting:

And here is a much shorter 10-minute discussion of the film, covering much of the same ground:

Final spiritual reflections

Of interest, just a few hours before I again saw this film, I had in my daily reading of Scripture read once more a passion narrative – this one from Matthew’s gospel. In his overwhelming grief and suffering Jesus twice prayed, ‘if possible, let this cup pass from me’ (Matthew 26:36-46).

It was quite fitting to have read this just before seeing the film. Things like cancer and dementia are among the most horrible things one can suffer from – both for the victim and their loved ones. Yet what Jesus endured for us on the cross is surely the greatest suffering of all. Indeed, his whole life was characterised by suffering. He is known as the “suffering servant” after all – see Isaiah 53.

He suffered far more than we ever will. And when it seemed that his very Father would abandon him while he was on the cross, that must have been the greatest of his sufferings. His agony was so very real: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46).

But the good news is, if we must deal with horrific things like dementia or cancer or ruined relationships or whatever, we know that God will never abandon us, but will be with us the entire way. Yes, we can pray to be delivered from our trials. But like Jesus, we must also learn to pray like he did: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

I wish cancer or dementia on no one. But if we must go through these horrific maladies, God is even able right there to give us grace, and to help us make it through. Our God knows all about our sufferings.

[1278 words]

4 Replies to “Crisis, Christ and Comfort”

  1. I heard some try to claim that if we end our pray with if it be your will, the equivalent of Matthew 26:39, we negate our prayer because God’s will IS our will. Odd people you meet who claim the name of Christ.

    I assume you have been watching the news. This came to mind:

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  2. I was not aware that your wife had passed…my deepest condolences…You are correct in your comments…Ironically enough, family members who are sometimes care givers have it equally or worse than the family member affected…Many times it is just the shock of it to begin with…

  3. I loved this film (which I watched recently too) but could not have watched it over a decade ago as I was nursing both Parents with Alzheimer’s.

    My darling sister was diagnosed @ 60 and is now in full-time Care @ 65.
    As a full blown born again Christian – it is ABSOLUTELY miraculous watching her minister to the lost, broken and hopeless in this facility.
    She may not remember their names but remembers their distress, situation and prays with me whenever led.
    We Serve an AWESOME God!

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