Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a highly successful lawyer who lives with his wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and his infant child. His world is delightfully pleasing and brings him contentment. However, a knock at Peter’s door changes everything. When his ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern), visits unexpectedly, she instantly discusses their son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath), who hasn’t been a school in almost a month. On top of skipping school, Kate explains to Peter that Nicholas isn’t well and needs help.
Peter agrees to catch up with Nicholas the next day and finds that his son is not okay. Nicholas seems to be suffering from sadness and pain and feels the only solution is to move in with Peter. This would remove his current tension with his mother and allow him to attend a new school and start fresh. Peter agrees to all the suggestions made by Nicholas. However, once Nicholas moves in, the problems are still ongoing, and Peter must do everything he can to help his son before it’s too late.
For those who need to be made aware, The Son serves as a prequel to the highly praised film The Father (2020). If you haven’t seen The Father, you could still easily walk into this film. Both movies are significantly different in plot, style, and pacing. The Son is best described as a heavy drama, and like The Father, was directed by Florian Zeller.
Performances here are, sadly, a combination of hit and miss. Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern both carry powerful moments, but their characters are painful to watch at times as they make one poor choice after another. Some lines of dialogue seem unfitting or poorly written. I found Vanessa Kirby, as Beth (Peter’s current partner), rather enjoyable, and she managed to give a more robust performance here. Zen McGrath as Nicholas is challenging to watch at times. The character of Nicholas also has unfitting line deliveries, and some audiences will struggle to have compassion for his character primarily because the reason for his deep sadness is not fully understood. Peter and Kate’s discipline and parenting style are questionable and baffling. Lastly, fans of Anthony Hopkins will be saddened to find that the actor only appears in one scene. This scene was welcome but essentially unnecessary to the plot of this film. His presence was more damaging to his character in The Father.
The musical score by Hans Zimmer is touching and appreciated. The pacing is slow, and while there is some drama and tension, it doesn’t hold up for the entire duration. The same could be said about camera movement. The first act is filled with a handheld camera style, meaning there is constant movement, not even holding still during moments that are, in fact, gripping, such as when Kate and Peter first discuss their son’s issues. I could not understand why or how the rest of the film differed so dramatically in filming style. While I wish I could praise the finale, sadly, I can’t. The final scenes are highly predictable, painful, and frustrating to see unfold. Again, this relates to poor character choices that are hard to accept. Hugh Jackman’s performance; however, is praiseworthy in the conclusion.
Overall, if you expect something of the same calibre as the director’s previous film, The Father, be prepared to be in deep shock. The Son is highly different in its storytelling, performances, characters, dialogue, and even filming style. Various character choices here are painful to watch, and performances are a combination of hit-and-miss from both Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern. The son, played by Zen McGrath, is also hit-and-miss. The character is nearly impossible for audiences to connect with, understand or even be compassionate for, given the vague understanding of the character. The filming style in the first act was frustrating, and the ending was predictable. The musical score is touching and gripping, and as the credits rolled, it was darn near impossible not to feel some form of compassion. Despite this, I also felt strongly frustrated and wanted a better experience. The Son (2022) is Available in Australian Cinemas from February 9th!