Courtesy, Sony Pictures Classics

Movie Review: The Son

09:00 January 24, 2023
By: David Vicari

The somber drama The Son deals with the heavy topics of depression and suicide, and, on occasion, the drama works, but, more often, it plays like a shallow made-for-Lifetime TV movie.

Hugh Jackman plays Peter, a successful Manhattan lawyer. He is remarried to a younger woman, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and they have a new baby. While contemplating a sweet job in Washington, Peter gets a call from his ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern), who says that their teenage son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath) dropped out of school and is very troubled. Not grasping the gravity of the situation, Peter thinks this can be a quick fix and has Nicholas move in with him and Beth, and gets the boy to see a therapist. That doesn't go as planned.

The Son is directed by Florian Zeller (The Father) who co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on his play of the same name. One of the major problems with the movie is that the stage play origin is all too apparent. There are scenes where characters sit down and discuss a pivotal scene that happened offscreen. At one point, Nicholas attempts suicide, but is discovered by Beth. We don't see this scene, or even a portion of it. No, we just hear about it. There are other scenes like this too, like when Peter apparently got drunk and he and Beth got into a screaming fight. Again, we just hear about it in a little aside. It becomes almost comical that major moments that should be in the film are just mentioned in dialogue. The actors really try, but too often clumsy dialogue gets in the way.

There are also moments that defy common sense. At one point Nicholas mentions a rifle that Peter owns and knows where it is located in the apartment. I don't know, maybe take that as a red flag and hide or get rid of the gun?

The movie also throws away Dern's character. At first, it appears that the kid's mother will be a main character, and will affect the story. No, we see less and less of her as the movie progresses, and she doesn't really have a final scene.

The Son deals with an important and serious topic, but it treatment of it is extremely superficial.

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