The Son

Verdict: The Son should have been emotionally devastating but it isn't, probably because of the questionable script and sub-par acting

  • Hugh Jackman, Vanessa Kirby
  • February 17th 2023
  • Florian Zeller

Hugh Jackman plays the workaholic father of a troubled teenager in Florian Zeller’s movie adaptation of his own play.

After receiving critical acclaim with the movie adaptation of his play The Father, Florian Zeller has done the same with his follow-up, The Son.

This drama is told from the perspective of Peter (Hugh Jackman), a successful lawyer who is contemplating a career in politics and often neglects his family for the sake of work.

One day, his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up at Peter’s apartment and voices her concerns about their teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath), who seems to be depressed.

They agree that Nicholas should move in with Peter, his new partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their baby son Theo.

This film is as dark and bleak as it sounds. Nicholas is deeply troubled and it takes a while for Peter to wake up and take everyone’s concerns seriously.

He doesn’t pay enough attention to his family and dismisses his son’s behaviour, insisting it is simply a phase.

The Son should be emotionally devastating but it has left many viewers numb and unmoved.

It doesn’t achieve its purpose of being a tearjerker because of the questionable script (the handling of mental health is dodgy at times) and sub-par acting.

It tries hard to affect the audience by adding in flashbacks from happier times but it still doesn’t pack the gut punch it should.

Jackman is most famous for his work in superhero films and musicals, so The Son marks a return to dramas.

This is a demanding film that needed a flawless, Oscar-worthy performance and, unfortunately, he was unable to meet the standard required.

By the same token, McGrath is not convincing as an unstable teenager who is a risk to himself. It’s a difficult role for any young actor, let alone a newcomer, and it exposed his limitations.

There should be no complaints about the supporting cast though because Dern and Kirby are outstanding, while Anthony Hopkins (the star of Zeller’s The Father) has one memorable scene as Peter’s mean-spirited father.

Zeller put his name on the map with The Father, which was a beautiful and moving piece of cinema. It’s such a shame he couldn’t replicate that success with The Son.

In cinemas from Friday 17th February.

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