Director: Florian Zeller
Writer: Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath, and Anthony Hopkins
Florian Zeller follows up his Oscar winning film The Father with The Son, another adaptation of one of his plays. This time around he’s tackling teenage depression, as well as father and son relationships. Unlike The Father, which tried to present the story from the viewpoint of the character struggling with dementia, The Son is a lot more conventional in structure. The story follows Peter (Hugh Jackman), whose son is struggling with depression. His son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath) moves in with Peter and his second wife Beth, in the hopes it helps to be closer to him.
The cast is really great, especially Jackman and Dern, who both deliver very natural and emotional performances as Nicholas’s parents. Zen McGrath does a good job, his character feeling strained under the weight of depression. His performance is a little one note at times, but it still connects. You can feel his struggle. Vanessa Kirby is also really great as Beth, Peter’s second wife, struggling with Nicholas while trying to support Peter. The performances are all great, as you’d expect from the cast.
One of the more interesting ideas about the film is that children become their parents. Peter believes his father, played by Anthony Hopkins, is essentially a monster. Someone who worked all the time, putting pressure on his son, and not being there when he was needed most. Peter likes to think he’s not similar at all, but he sees parts of his father in himself. Anthony Hopkins only appears in one scene, and yet his glorified cameo is the best performance of the film. He’s unrelentingly selfish and relishing in it. His relationship with his son, is so messed up, and he feels no remorse. It’s a glorious performance, and honestly one of the highlights of the film. He’s so menacing and it’s no surprise when Peter freaks out, after seeing his father in himself.
The ending is incredibly frustrating, because you can see it coming really early on in the story and it feels a little forced because of it, but as the same time the characters are so good, you don’t want the inevitable to happen. You will it to change, but you know it’s going to happen. One of the final scenes is dragged out to perfection, as you hope it’s not going to play out the way you know it will. Hearts beating faster and hands gripping the arm rests tighter, right up to the moment. It’s a really well constructed and lands powerfully.
The Son is a dark film with a small sprinkle of humour. The performances are great and it tackles some heavy subject matter head on. It does feel a little stagey, which is no shock considering its source material, and it does feel a little too long, but it’s a great film and I enjoyed it more than I did The Father, which I found very cold and unemotional, while this is engaging from the first scene.
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