Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern effectively play the parents of a depressed teenager who is sadly about to commit the worst.
Unlike “The Father”, Florian Zeller follows a linear narrative style here. Nicholas (Zen McGrath) is a troubled, depressed teenager. Kate (Laura Dern) is at a loss for what to do when she learns that her son has been out of school for several months. And when the boy expresses his desire to live with his father, Peter (Hugh Jackman), the parents accept. But now Peter has remarried to Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and they just had a son.
The devil is in the details
The tension is palpable. The tension between Peter and Kate, whose breakup went badly. The tension between Beth and Nicholas. The tension between Peter and Nicholas. And the one between Peter and his father (Anthony Hopkins in a particularly strong scene). The “son” named in the title is quickly no longer Nikolaus, but Peter. Peter, a brilliant lawyer, promised a political future, always immaculately dressed…with his unshaven beard. Peter in his apartment in cold colors that contrast with Kate’s warm colors. The gun hidden by Peter. The washing machine, whose drumbeat heralds an inevitable catastrophe.
Nicholas’ discomfort is explored as much as possible, which means little. Because the reasons for his depression, for this youthful “sickness” can only be multifactorial, “The Son” is above all a drama about the parents, about the parental reaction. And the tension of the characters becomes uncomfortable for the viewer. Discomfort at Nicholas’ pain, Peter’s pain, Kate’s pain. Uncomfortable with all these things left unsaid, these buried grudges, this lack of dialogue and listening.
From time to time Florian Zeller airs the film, especially with that dance scene – although that moment does appear in the play, it would have been a shame not to take full advantage of Hugh Jackman’s skill – or those moments that give a glimpse, like peaceful family relationships could look like.
While the viewer in “The Father” can easily identify with Anthony Hopkins, who suffers from dementia, it is difficult to “decide” on a character here. The emotional connection to the characters is scattered because we find ourselves in almost everyone, without fully recognizing ourselves in anyone. This imbalance is reinforced by the screenplay’s somewhat harsh strings, by the forced melodrama – especially at the end – which dampens the masterful scenes of strength and emotion – the one with the psychiatrists in particular is unforgettable. But let’s not forget the most important thing: we need to talk to and listen to those who are suffering. And you should never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.