THE FATHER AND THE BEAR
Written and Directed by: John Putch
Starring Wil Love, David DeLuise, and Dendrie Taylor
Imagine that the one thing you are passionate about in life is taken away from you because you’re aging and seeing the beginnings of dementia. It’s one of the possible curses associated with aging and Byron Temple (Wil Love), local acting legend, is in the midst of this situation in John Putch’s heartfelt film “The Father and the Bear.” Byron longs to be on stage once again. His last performance a couple years before was a disaster because of dementia and he hasn’t returned since. Now, a new theater manager, Bill (David DeLuise) comes to town with his energetic daughter, Lefty (Charity Farrell) and the two find a way to help one another accomplish their goals. It’s a beautiful and emotional journey of love, acceptance, and most importantly, community.
John Putch, prolific television actor and director, takes us back to his hometown roots in Chambersburg, PA to tell this very personal tale. Putch states that his “…mother (Jean Stapleton) passed with dementia and the film takes place in my childhood home, where my father operated his beloved summer theater the Totem Pole Playhouse.” Putch uses the actors from the town to bring this story to life, challenging the viewer to understand the emotional impact that aging and dementia has on everyone. In fact, Putch uses “archival footage…from the hundreds of shows that they performed in under the direction of [his] father Bill Putch” to stitch together a seamlessly beautiful story.
The opening scene in this film packs a powerful punch as Byron’s daughter, Diane (Dendrie Taylor) drives him to a doctor’s appointment for an evaluation.
Byron’s reaction to the situation is uncannily real, having gone through this myself just a few years ago. That’s what makes this film different…it strikes a personal chord, not just with me, but with the millions of people who deal with aging parents and dementia every year. Byron and his daughter struggle through the process, neither quite understanding the process and neither wanting to accept it.
Newcomer Bill and his daughter are charged with the summer production at the Totem Pole Playhouse, but their star bails on them, leaving them without the draw they needed to raise the necessary funds for the theater. Bill, unaware of Byron’s condition, asks him to take on this role, but is the pressure too much and can he defy the intermittent symptoms of dementia? “The Father and the Bear” take us into the lives of all who are involved, giving us a unique perspective about Byron’s life and how it affects so many.
The story is beautifully written and weaving in real film footage of Love’s performances brings a sense of authenticity and even more heart to this tale. We are on the edge of our seats, not knowing how the story is going to end. Putch is also able to bring us inside the mind of Love’s character, giving us insight to his past and his struggle, connecting us even more deeply to him. Taylor’s performance embodies the heartbreak and love a daughter feels as she watches her father attempt to resist this disease and hold on to the person he is. DeLuise brings sincerity and love to his role of Bill and Farrell is the life of the room, bringing light and energy to every scene. It is Love, however, that is simply stellar as Byron Temple. He is my father. He is everyone’s father. He pulls you into his struggle with such strength and emotion that you cannot resist. With the captivating and powerful script and amazing performances, we all have a better understanding of this cognitive disease, its effects, and perhaps how we can do better in helping others.
“The Father and the Bear” is a beautiful, insightful, and emotionally eloquent film that is inspirational as it reminds us what is important in life. Putch’s personal touches brings us a genuine story not typically seen in Hollywood films today.
For more information about seeing this film in your community go to www.thefatherandthebear.com
“The Father and the Bear” is available on DVD and Blu Ray right now. And early in 2017, you can see it via on-line platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix.
For more information about dementia, go to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association