Toronto International Film Festival review – ‘The Son’ is a flawed portrayal of the challenges of parenthood


It’s not easy being a parent, and one of the hardest parts of the job is not knowing in advance what a child will be like. Children are to some degree shaped by how their parents raise them, but they are also influenced by other factors and develop their own personality traits. This can lead to friction, especially if the relationship between the parents is strained and there isn’t a clear approach on how to model or discipline. The son features a storyline where a divorced couple struggles to guide their teenage son, whose troubles they seem to not understand.

Courtesy of TIFF

Peter (Hugh Jackman) has a stable and comfortable life, which includes the recent birth of a new baby with his wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby). The balance is upset when Peter’s teenage son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath), arrives, sent to his father by his mother Kate (Laura Dern), who is at a loss for ideas to help him after learning that he been out of school for a full month. Peter is relishing the opportunity to spend time with a son he hasn’t seen regularly since leaving Kate, and he thinks whatever is wrong with Nicholas will dissipate once he moves on. time with his baby brother and in new surroundings with his father nearby, unaware of how bad his depression is.

The son is director Florian Zeller’s sequel to the Oscar-winning The father, also adapted by Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s play. Although they are linked thematically and by title, in addition to being part of a trilogy, they are radically different films. While Zeller’s previous project followed a man grabbing memories in his own apartment, this movie has an ensemble cast and supporting characters, all sure of who they are even if it still involves working on their relationship with everyone. world. The structures of the two are not alike at all, and The son doesn’t involve an obvious cinematic approach that separates it from its stage format, with the dialogue and blocking seeming much more suited to a live audience.

The son
Sony Pictures Classics

The title is also an interesting facet of this movie since Peter gets a lot more screen time than Nicholas and serves as the film’s focal point. He also shares a memorable scene with his own father, played by Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his last on-screen turn as a Zeller-directed father. Although this exceptional interaction features a conversation about how Peter thinks his own upbringing has shaped the way he acts as a father, he is not otherwise referenced in the film, the focus instead being on how whose Peter trying to help Nicholas means he neglects his other child and the woman who had no say in the sudden arrival of an easily shaken teenager in her home.

Jackman once played a version of this character, a charmer who projects self-confidence but has no idea how to act and handle a crisis. Dern and Kirby have both played bigger roles that use their talents in the past, while Hopkins reliably chews the setting in his brief appearance. McGrath delivers a committed performance, but one that reveals the general flaw of this film. While it’s surely meant to reflect people who are simply not equipped to deal with their situation, no matter how assertive, it feels overly staged and lacks any real quality. The story being told is important and resonant, but the way it unfolds doesn’t effectively drive it home.

Grade: C+

Check out more articles from Abe Friedtanzer.

Following its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, The son will be released in NY and LA on November 11e.


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