A recurring theme of the past year has been that of dementia. At least seven movies, including one documentary, have revolved around the insidious disease (even Shameless’ Frank is losing his marbles). Actually, dementia isn’t a disease but rather a group of symptoms caused by many different diseases. Regardless, most of us have known or loved someone who’s dealt or is dealing with mental decline and memory loss. To be one of those suffering, to look at the face of someone you’ve known and loved for years and not know who’s staring back at you, is unfathomable. So, why would anyone want to watch a film about dementia?
We often shun uncomfortable stories to protect ourselves from harsh realities—an experience equatable to pulling teeth. According to the World Health Organization, more than 5 percent of the population (over the age of 60) has some form of dementia, and diseases affecting the brain are projected to triple by 2050. Despite it being a common ailment, perhaps out of fear, it’s still stigmatized and largely ignored. Given the toll it takes on so many, conversations and emotionally resonant depictions of it are more necessary than ever.
Much like 2014’s aptly-titled, Still Alice, this year’s films like The Father have brought the subject back to screen with a vengeance; trying to not only show us not only the person who was but the person who is and what they experience. The Father in particular aligns its lens with the inflicted rather than viewing their symptoms from an outside perspective. It’s terrifying, the idea that what we need is each other and, unfortunately, we may not always be there, even when we are. Hopefully, we grow to understand more about dementia, learn to recognize it, and better adapt to it. Hell, let’s cure the fucking thing (aging in general). For now, the year’s deluge of dementia dramas can help to normalize, accept, and deal with it.