Year:  2022

Director:  Florian Zeller

Rated:  TBC

Release:  February 9, 2023

Distributor: Transmission

Running time: 123 minutes

Worth: $12.00
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Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Zen McGrath, Vanessa Kirby, Anthony Hopkins

… a first-rate performance by Hugh Jackman.

The Son is based on a play by its director, as was his previous film, the stunningly brilliant The Father. But this – the second in a trilogy – isn’t a patch on that one. In fact, it’s not much good at all really, apart (and admittedly it’s a big ‘apart’) from a first-rate performance by Hugh Jackman.

Jackman plays Peter, a successful and rather affable businessman happily ensconced in Manhattan with his partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their baby son. Their lives are turned upside down when Peter’s distraught ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) reveals that his other son – teenager Nicholas (Zen McGrath) – hasn’t been to school in a month. He’s also evidently been self-harming. The upshot is that the clearly deeply depressed Nicholas goes to live with Peter and co. for a while.

All this should lay the groundwork for a potent drama, perhaps even a wrenching one. Instead, it’s manipulative, stilted, stagey, sometimes hard to believe and disappointingly predictable. McGrath acts poorly, delivering most of his lines in a way that’s merely flat without conveying any of the implicitly traumatic depth. But then, to be fair, the biggest problem lies with the raw material itself (the script): it’s underwritten, yet crams in a lot of banally tendentious and non-naturalistic dialogue. (“I’m not made like other people, sometimes I feel like I’m not made for this life …”)

And then there’s the question of emphasis. The central focus here is on the knock-on effects of Nicholas’s depression on everybody else, notably Peter. There is of course nothing wrong with that as a subject per se, but in this case, it somehow tends to sideline what’s most important.

There is actually one other notably impressive portrayal in The Son, but it’s very brief: a cameo by Anthony Hopkins as Peter’s monstrously callous father. But given that Hopkins’s star turn was the greatest thing about The Father, it serves merely to remind us of how badly Florian Zeller’s filmmaking instincts have faltered in this follow-up.