Cannes Film Festival 2022: The Son

Cannes Film Festival 2022: The Son | Exam

September 7, 2022


Peter (Hugh Jackman) is in his prime: he and his wife have just had a baby, and with meetings in Washington, DC, his career as a high-profile lawyer takes off in political circles. That romance is threatened when Nicholas – Peter’s teenage son from a previous marriage – shows signs of depression, and he and his mother (Laura Dern) agree that it might be best if he comes to live with his father to change.

Florian Zeller’s directorial debut The father captivated critics and audiences alike as the chamber piece managed to create a palpable understanding of what dementia feels like to someone affected by it. In The son, the playwright-turned-filmmaker tackles the equally weighty subject of teenage depression but, to the detriment of the film, chooses to tell the story entirely from the father’s perspective. As such, all empathy rests with Peter and his frustration at not being able to communicate with his son. Although the viewer may be more omniscient than the characters in understanding that mental illness cannot be rationalized, the script maintains the “why don’t you just get better?” narrative rather than offering insight into Nicholas’ struggle. For those who suffer from mental illness, it can be a slap in the face to see themselves portrayed as a mere burden on their family.

As The fatherthe sequel is adapted from Zeller’s own play and again the action is largely confined to a focus, but here it does not operate under the same dramatic necessity. The feature’s dialogue feels stilted and gives its actors little material to flesh out their characters – Peter being the notable exception.

It’s possible that the blank expression in Zen McGrath’s eyes was a deliberate acting choice – after all, apathy is a common symptom of depression – but alongside Jackman’s emotional tour de force, we have the feels like watching a solo squash match when it should have the back-and-forth dynamics of a tennis match instead.

It’s disappointing that the collaboration of such capable minds is nothing more in-depth than a 1990s made-for-TV movie.

Selina Sonderman

The son does not yet have a UK release date.

Read more reviews of our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.

For more information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.

Watch the trailer for The son here:

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