The Son

The Son
The Son
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One of the most exceptional presentations of aging in film was accomplished when Florian Zeller adapted his own play for the very first time. In The Father, viewers were emotionally taken inside a man with dementia whose ”reality” kept changing faster than he did and everyone else. The Son is another play by Zeller that has been adapted (The Mother is yet to be converted thus completing this stage trilogy). It’s different from The Father because it’s a more emotional story where the sympathy is earned rather than baked into its premise. While it is a familiar story that is well told and acted, it does not have the unique creation found in The Father.

Hugh Jackman shows what a strong dramatic actor he can be once again for the first time in years. He plays Peter, who is now a successful lawyer living in Manhattan with an attractive new wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and their baby boy. Kate (his ex-wife) and his teenage son Nicholas are constantly interfering in his life just as he tries to move on after leaving her for Beth. Nicholas’s state of mind has deteriorated greatly; therefore, Nicholas has resorted to begging his dad to let him live there instead. Both hope it will fix everything, but Nicholas’ health gets steadily worse.

There are some beautiful scenes between Peter and Nicholas trying to understand each other better; meanwhile a brief glimpse of Peter’s father by Anthony Hopkins steals all attention from others creating an interesting perspective through which Peter views his son as well – even if lonely at times.” However, much of this film teeters at melodrama levels that are quite strange. It’s done subtly but still slightly artificial. Zeller squeezes emotions out mercilessly into these high-pitched moments until they become tiresome rather than touching.

Nicholas tends towards big speeches about how miserable he feels delivered in over-earnest monologues which do not sound spontaneous at all. Characters generally behave to further the plot, rather than responding in a manner that is credible. The passage in which Beth suddenly starts screaming nasty things about Nicholas while they are standing in a tiny apartment where she will be easily heard by everyone and has never said anything bad about him before is a good example of this. Wealthy New Yorkers Peter and Kate know next to nothing about therapy though they can definitely afford it. It’s slightly self-conscious, but as the film drags on—and it very much does—this play-acting increasingly appears as if it might just have been intentional on Zeller’s part: the effect is to make Nicholas’ world as dishonest and uncomfortable as he perceives it.

Zeller, with a remarkable amount of subtlety, leaves the end hanging over you like an evil spell. There are hints early on regarding where the story could go, although many ways are subtly suggested through the movie. The finale comes as a surprise and yet we all saw it coming from miles away. But instead of just leaving it starkly alone like that he had to add such syrupy postscript which was not necessary at all. Just like most of this film, it could have been more powerful by being less exploitative.

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