The Son – Film Review

The Son – Film Review
by Brian Merriman

Director – Florian Zeller
Writer – Florian Zeller (screenplay by), Christopher Hampton (screenplay by), Based on Zeller’s play Le Fils
Stars – Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath, Hugh Quarshie and Anthony Hopkins
Cinematography: Ben Smithard

Duration: 122 Minutes

THE SON is the second instalment in Florian Zeller’s trilogy on the subject of mental health in an estranged family and his second feature film as writer-director. The first was the Oscar-winning ‘The Father’, but it is not essential to have seen this. The screenplay by Academy Award winners Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton stands complete, as a powerful piece of theatre on screen. The theatricality of the structure shines through with a small but stellar cast, playing in fine-tuned impactful roles, that drive the drama with emotion and power.

Contemporary familial film themes often include divorce. Here, we get a revealing study of all the characters who go through relationships that begin and end with the process of divorce and how in many cases, there is much unresolved even after the separation is approved by law.

It is made all the more revealing and truthful when placed in the hands of a formidable cast. Academy Award nominee Hugh Jackman firmly puts his song and dance prowess to one side and showcases dramatic quality as he struggles to connect emotions and place from past and present. Oscar winner Laura Dern is an equal presence as an emotional and vulnerable, ex-wife Kate, who no longer has her place and struggles to readjust. Oscar nominee Vanessa Kirby (Beth) the exhausted, but probably the most aware adult as Peter’s current wife, shows all the life changing adjustments necessitated by the birth of their young son Theo and the challenges of becoming part of the life of the struggling teenager, Nicholas.

There is no such thing as a small part, especially when occupied by a double Oscar winner, briefly reprising his role in THE FATHER, Sir Anthony Hopkins. It is a stunning cameo and his character retains an influence over reactions long after he leaves the screen.

All of these accomplished actors play circumstances that originated earlier but are now being shaped by the arrival of Kate and Peter’s son, a troubled 17-year-old Nicholas, who will not have ‘the good old days’ erased. He calls everyone into account for the turmoil he endures in his adolescence. Newcomer Zen McGrath’s playing of Nicholas in such auspicious company, is polished and slick. This slight and unassuming 17-year-old knows what he is doing within the story and on the screen.

There are conclusive hints that a more detached audience member will recognise, but the placing of the loving, guilty, adults in the centre of the plot, equally exposes their blindness to the danger signs, clearly dropped throughout the screenplay.

The Son is a delayed conversation among the adults who proceed through a divorce without acknowledging the ramifications that would live on after. Nicholas forces that conversation to be held now.

There is an odd, unresolved interest in the French intern played by Gabriel Ecoffey.  Hugh Quarshie from BBC’s ‘Casualty’ pops up in another Doctor role here, as mental health issues come to the fore and challenge the privileged parents.

Privilege helps you understand the right to choose but is the choice you make right? There are three generations present in the instincts that drive us to the present. The father’s advice is ‘get over it’…but that is only valuable if you can get over it. There is much emotion in this contemporary drama as it is constructed and played…it resonates and it does take time to ‘get over it’.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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