Sunday 24 March 2024

Movie Review: The Son (2022)

Genre: Mental Health Drama  
Director: Florian Zeller  
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Kirby  
Running Time: 123 minutes  

Synopsis: In New York City, successful executive Peter Miller (Hugh Jackman) is in a happy relationship with his second wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their new baby. Peter's routine is disrupted when his frazzled ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) reveals that their 17 year-old son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has missed school for the past month. Nicholas admits to having trouble coping with life and asks to move-in with his dad, forcing Peter to confront his responsibilities and expectations.

What Works Well: Co-writer and director Florian Zeller adapts his stage play to the screen, and succeeds in exposing the heartbreaking complexities of a mental health crisis. Nicholas' troubles land upon adults ill-equipped to recognize, much less deal with, a youth in crisis, and the cascading effects of ignorance, miscommunication, denial, self-doubt, and guilt derail the family towards successively darker places. Zen McGrath is haunting in his portrayal of a young man enveloped by depression, while Hugh Jackman throws himself into the role of a father trying hard but often in all the wrong directions. Anthony Hopkins leaves a lasting impression in his one scene as Peter's father, emboldening inter-generational behaviours.

What Does Not Work As Well: The storytelling choice to centre the perspective on the dad Peter rather than the son Nicholas steers the drama towards cold observation rather than intense involvement. For a seemingly well-educated couple, both Peter and Kate appear densely obtuse in failing to appreciate what Nicholas is going through, with Peter in particular often following the path of most damage. Several scenes succumb to overly-theatrical emotions. 

Conclusion: A knowingly frustrating and effectively uncompromising portrayal of a distressing affliction.

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