Wondering why you haven’t heard a ton about “The Son” in spite of a star studded cast? Unfortunately it seems that there’s a good reason for this film remaining off the awards radar. Written and directed by Florian Zeller, and based on his own stage play of the same name, the film perhaps would have been better off sticking to the boards.
Zeller’s first film, “The Father,” was an emotional piece starring Anthony Hopkins as an aging man dealing with deteriorating memory. Hopkins and co-stars Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, and Mark Gatiss all turn in strong performances. Hopkins in fact netted an Academy Award for Best Actor in the film.
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Standing in the shadow of “The Father”
Hopkins also appears in “The Son” oh so briefly, the follow up film (and we’d like to note if Zeller’s third film ends up being called “The Holy Spirit” we’d have respect for the long bit there) is still a story of parental reckoning. This time with Hugh Jackman as a father to both a teenager and a newborn. Zen McGrath turns in a semi-robotic performance as the teenage son (though we think this may have been what he was directed to do which is its own issue) and Laura Dern plays his unfortunately one dimensional mother. Jackman’s character’s new family is with Vanessa Kirby and they are balancing having a newborn, and the teenager come to stay.
After slogging through a jumble of setup, “The Son” then feels like it trods into dangerous territory. The teenage character is dealing with depression and expressing himself in unhealthy ways following the divorce of his parents. From that point forward the film seems to be an instruction manual of what NOT to do with someone experiencing such a crisis. While this might be the intention of the film, it’s presented in such a way that it feels like not once did the filmmakers consult with a mental health professional. At times it feels downright exploitative.
Perhaps if one still saw it as a play, the element of being in the room with the actors would help mitigate the feeling of manipulation. However at the end of the day the actual writing is what turns us off this unfortunate follow up.