All London Film Festival 2022 reviews will be written by the wonderfully talented and massive film fan Brigitte Krause. You can follow her on Twitter – @TheBrigitteEdit.
The Son marks Florian Zeller’s return to the London Film Festival, receiving critical acclaim with his last film, The Father (2020).
As a playwright, Zeller wrote a trilogy of plays, which includes The Mother, The Father, and The Son. For his second film, Zeller has decided to adapt The Son, the final play in the trilogy.
Nicholas (McGrath) is going through a tough time in school and decides he no longer wants to live with his mother (Dern) and instead live with his father, Peter (Jackman), who (after the divorce) now lives with his new partner (Kirby) and small toddler.
Nicholas has started skipping school, isolating himself, and struggling, much to his father’s disappointment. Who wants his son to be the young, promising boy he used to be many years ago.
This is where the father and son dynamic is still promising. Hugh Jackman’s character clearly struggles to connect and understand his Son’s struggles. He doesn’t know why he suddenly would be in pain for no particular reason, becoming harder on him and only pushing him further away.
He even mentions generational trauma, at a desperate moment, where you have hope he might learn from his own father’s mistakes. Only to continue to dismiss his Son’s depression further, adding additional pressure on his Son, who already feels like he isn’t doing enough.
I understand this is an adaptation of a play, but it wouldn’t be the first time one decides to modernize it. My frustrations with The Son are based on things that could’ve been easily avoided.
Despite mental health conversations having a long way to go, we have made improvements over the last few years. It lacks the nuance that mental health, depression, and self-harm have in real life and continues with the old “But why are you feeling this way? You have nothing to worry about” narrative that is so frustrating to listen to, especially those of us who suffer with mental illnesses.
It also depicts Nicholas as being creepy and problematic, among other things. How are we still framing mental health this way?
Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby do their best with what they are given in the script, which ultimately isn’t enough.
The Son lacks the emotional honesty I would expect a film about a crumbling father and son, with deteriorating mental health, to have.
Directed by – Florian Zeller
Cast: Zen McGrath, Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby & Anthony Hopkins
Run Time: 2hrs 3mins