The Son tries hard to be an intense Oscar-contending drama, but ultimately comes up short.
Most people love a good drama. Seeing a movie that tugs the heart strings or one that is so human and real can go a long way into becoming memorable or timeless. The Son, directed by Oscar winner Florian Zeller (The Father), tries so hard to be an impactful film to open people’s eyes on depression in teenagers and parenting trickling down from father to son, but ends up coming up short. Quite short, actually.
Unfortunately, only a handful of scenes in The Son are memorable. More times than not, it comes off as melodramatic while moving extremely slow throughout its two-hour runtime. Hugh Jackman portrays Peter, a divorced wealthy middle-aged lawyer that has a son with his ex wife Kate (Laura Dern). The son, Nicholas, has several mental issues ever since his parents got divorce and his dad remarried. A bulk of the movie is spent on Nicholas going back and forth between which parent he loves or hates at the time, but he mostly blames his dad for the divorce and he resents his current wife Beth. Nicholas tells his mom he wants to move in with his dad. Peter thinks it will be good to build a relationship with him again, but Nicholas is far too gone at that point.
The biggest issue with The Son is the script. At times, it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be, and the parts that are supposed to be dramatic and hard-hitting come up short. As a viewer, you continue to think throughout the film that there will be some reveal as to why Nicholas is so depressed and why he has attempted suicide. In those moments, instead, we get “just life” when Peter questions him why is doing what he is doing. Depression is different for everyone, and maybe life on its own is what is bringing Nicholas down. But for the sake of a dramatic movie, it just needed to be a bit more than “just life.” Because of this, The Son often comes off very overdramatic.
Hugh Jackman does what he can to keep The Son afloat, but his acting at times is way over the top. In addition to that, Zen McGrath delivers some of the worst acting of 2022 with his portrayal of Nicholas. There are so many times that you get completely taken out of a scene due to poor acting and that really bogs down the movie as a whole. We all know that Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern are great actors, but not even they can save The Son and its suffocated script and poor performance from Zen.
Overall, The Son is a big miss from director Florian Zeller and a massive step backwards from The Father. It either tries too hard or isn’t enough and when you combine that with over-the-top acting and a poor script, it makes it easy to want the movie to simply end. There are two good scenes in The Son, but other than that it is just a waste of time.
(out of five stars)