The Son is directed by Florian Zeller, who also directed 2020’s The Father.
Florian Zeller’s 2020 film, ‘The Father,’ took the story of a man living with dementia and portrayed it in a way that was so unique and idiosyncratic. It was anchored with powerful performances by both Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Zeller’s follow-up, ‘The Son’, dives into another heavy topic. It tackles teen depression but doesn’t take any of the same storytelling risks that made ‘The Father’ so compelling. Instead, we are left with a linear and rather joyless experience despite some of the beloved performers involved.
The Son Synopsis
In the film, Peter Miller (Hugh Jackman) receives a visit from his ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern), who tells him that their 17-year-old son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath), has been depressed and is skipping school. To help his son, Peter invites Nicholas to live with him, his second wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and their newborn son. Peter quickly learns that Nicholas is not just dealing with surface-level teenager issues and is having a much tougher time than he ever imagined.
Despite some melodramatic material, Jackman is giving it his all in his performance.
His presence is one of the only positive things that the film has to offer. However, one scene stands out: Jackman’s character Peter visits his father, portrayed by Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins, whose most recent Oscar win was in Zeller’s previous directorial outing. In the scene, the audience discovers some of Peter’s true motives behind taking the time to help his son. It’s a scene that stands out for its execution in an otherwise lackluster and depressing tale.
The supporting performances by Dern and Kirby are fine with limited screen time, but I had a hard time buying the performance of McGarth, which can make or break the film. It’s a difficult role, and McGarth is a young actor, so not all the blame can be placed on his shoulders.
I give The Son 2 out of 5 stars. It seems that it was designed to push buttons. It wants to make you feel emotions, but at what cost? The payoff isn’t there, and it can feel like drama, for drama’s sake. Despite Jackman’s decent performance, there isn’t enough to recommend this movie unless you want to feel a sense of depression yourself. Perhaps underneath, there is a cautionary tale for parents whose own children have depression, but there’s little hope offered. It’s not ill-intentioned, but that doesn’t make it any less bleak.
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