The Son


‘…while Jackman makes more than a decent fist of his character here, the earnest drama of The Son feels both too much and not enough…’

Yikes! Florian Zeller’s follow-up to his Oscar-winner in the best actor category The Father was marked as an awards season-front runner, but with a release timed to capitalise on gong glory, it’s unfortunate that this melodramatic family saga arrives before the UK public pretty much empty handed, aside from a Golden Globe nomination; ie pretty much empty handed. That dubious awards nom came for Hugh Jackman, always a lively performer, but while Jackman makes more than a decent fist of his character here, the earnest drama of The Son feels both too much and not enough.

Jackman plays Peter Miller, a NYC based businessman who has two sons; one with his new wife Beth (Vanessa Kirkby) and one now 17 with his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern). Nicholas (Zen McGrath) is suffering from depression, and his ongoing mental health issues awaken dormant feelings in Peter, who looks to his own father (Anthony Hopkins in a dramatic one scene cameo) for support and advice. When that doesn’t prove to be a game-changer, Peter has to find some way to deal with his son’s alarming descent towards self-harm…

Zeller is a smart operator, as a playwright and a film-maker, but somehow the benefit of the doubt that worked for The Father works against him here. The Father, also co-written by the great Christopher Hampton, used a tricky flashback and flash-forward approach to allow us to experience dementia first hand; a cinematic gamble, but one that most audiences seemed to appreciate. The Son has a much more straightforward structure, but leads to an equally tricky bait and switch ending which cheats the audience and works badly against the seriousness of the whole film up to that point. The idea of generational trauma, of the sins of the father passed onto the son, are potent, but somehow The Son never connects with genuine emotional discord until the contrived ending.

The Son isn’t a complete bust at all; there are the strong performances that a top notch cast provide, and Jackman in particular gives it his all. But mental health issues, particularly for young people, are very hard for a big, glossy Hollywood film to feel honest about, and despite all the pretty pictures, The Son falls short on conveying whatever truth must have made Zeller’s play work. An acting master-class, sure, but when the central story doesn’t quite chime, it’s a whole lot of effort for a cause that’s badly flawed.

The Son is released UK wide on 17 February 2023. Thanks to Sony for access.


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  1. Saw the trailer for this at the theatre, and it made zero impression on me. I literally had no feeling about it, and I always have a strong reaction to trailers. Odd. The Cocaine Bear trailer on the other hand made quite an impression on me. Odd.

        • So we can agree on this issue. I watched the trailer for every new movie that had superbowl ads. None of them look good. It’s not because I’m a prune or a prude, they just don’t look like something that even my childish mind can enjoy. Movie people have grown distant from actual real humans, and their product is not up to scratch imho.

          • When movies turn from telling a good story (no matter the genre) to being just vanity projects, I don’t see how they can continue to survive.
            People will turn elsewhere. No idea what the new thing might be, but video games sure do seem to make a lot of money these days.

            • I think the preachy quality of many films is a big issue; they’re also not preaching anything worthwhile, quite the opposite. But vanity is the issue; people handed the megaphone but with nowt to say.

              Video games don’t seem to have the same disconnect with audiences…

          • You weren’t thrilled by the prospect of Cocaine Bear, surely the savior of cinema?

            Or the what will surely be fresh takes in Gardians of the Galaxy 3, Fast 10, and Indiana Jones-who-knows-how-many?

            There is something broken in cinema. Our choices are 3 hour corporate commericals meant to sell toys or tiny niche art house films. What has happened to original middlebrow ideas?

  2. Didn’t see The Dad so probably won’t see The Lad. When Jackman makes a fist of something do his claws spring out?

    decent towards self-harm . . . groan

    • Descent, of course. The Holy Ghost will be the third film in the trilogy, and sees Wolverine square up to Swamp Thing, or something.

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