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the son


starring: hugh jackman, zen mcgrath, laura dern, and vanessa kirby

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Peter has his busy life with new partner Beth and their baby thrown into disarray when his ex-wife Kate turns up with their teenage son, Nicholas.

The Son follows a family as it falls apart and tries to come back together again. A couple of years after his parents’ divorce, 17‐year‐old Nicholas no longer feels he can stay with his mother, Kate. He moves in with his father Peter and Peter’s new partner Beth. 


Juggling work, his and Beth’s new baby, and the offer of his dream job in Washington, Peter tries to care for Nicholas as he wishes his own father had cared for him. But by reaching for the past to correct its mistakes, he loses sight of how to hold onto Nicholas in the present.


Like the critically acclaimed 2020 film The Father, The Son is directed by Oscar winner Florian Zeller and is based on a play that he also wrote. While The Father translated beautifully from the stage to the silver screen, The Son appears to be slightly disjointed in its transition. 


There are certain narrative beats that feel as though they would be better suited for the stage and some implicit acting choices where it appears that some of the actors exaggerate certain actions or the volume of their voice as you would expect in a stage play. It’s all very subtle, minor incidents but their repetition throughout the film leaves you with a sense that there is something a little off. 


The subject matter is pretty heavy going but is a necessary conversation to be had. And while it doesn’t necessarily ring true that a wealthy, Manhattan family would be completely clueless in caring for a teenager with mental illness, it does vividly display how parents shouldn’t react, treat, and talk to their child if and when they’re battling mental illness. That alone is reason enough for every parent of a teenager to watch this film. 


As a new Dad there are scenes in this film that are searing, they will make you think of your children and make you want to rush home and hug them tightly and tell them that you love them. Truly powerful stuff. 


The cast are ably lead by Hugh Jackman who gives a superb, haunted but filled with rage and regret kinda performance. But the scene between him and Anthony Hopkins, who plays his father, is an electrifying master class. 


While it has some narrative beats and acting choices that don’t quite ring true, the subject matter of The Son is searing and powerful and will make you want to rush home and hug your children tightly.


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