Florian Zeller’s The Father was an inspired and deeply emotional look into mental health from a unique perspective. His follow up with The Son is not nearly as unique or inspired. I do like the symmetry of these two films as a whole, looking at the father/son relationship, but The Father was such a powerhouse of a film, following it up certainly weighs heavy on this film.
The son in question, you would be made to believe, is Hugh Jackman’s troubled son, Nicholas, but as you continue to watch its Jackman’s character that comes more into focus. With a blink and you’ll miss it scene with Anthony Hopkins, Jackman begins to flesh out his own issues as a son to a driven father. The only problem is that this is mostly an internal struggle for the character, with one argument that gets out of control where you really see him processing his own shortcoming as a father, Where The Father was able to put you in the drivers seat of dementia and coping with a loved one suffering, The Son tries to put you in the room with it, but lacks showing you in a meaningful way. It’s full of way too obvious shots of the laundry room and spinning washing machines suddenly stopping, the “on the nose” dialogue does no favors to a story that’s treading a razors edge in melodrama.
Zeller does get multiple performances that stand out. Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby especially bring some emotional weight. Jackman balances his emotions between his feelings for his son and his feelings for his father well, culminating into a few blow ups that are no doubt the reason he’s been in the conversation for some awards chatter. There are some very frustrating moments and crazy decisions made my the characters that I really hope are an attempt at opening up room for conversations about mental health and the treatment of loved ones struggling, I sincerely hope that is why we are subjected to the pain and emotional stress on screen. The line between emotional and manipulation is thin, this will definitely be a divisive film.
If there are positive talks about mental health and healthy conversations, it will have all been worth it. The trouble is parsing out the details and glaring issues without taking the audience out of what you are actually trying to get across.
3 out of 5