The Son 2023 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
I want to start by saying that Florian Zeller’s previous film The Father was my favorite film the year that it was released; that film is an incredibly honest and unique look at someone suffering from Alzheimer’s that just may be the best film that has ever tackled the subject. Zeller took a stage play and made it cinematic in a way I’ve never seen done before for a play-to-film adaptation. It felt so real precisely because of Zeller’s own personal experience of his father suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Flash-forward to The Son and everything that was done so well in The Father is done so poorly here. One of the first scenes is the film is a conversation between Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern about how their teenage son Nicholas hasn’t been going to school for over a month. I knew immediately the film was in trouble because these veteran actors come off as film school actors in a scene that is so awkward and stilted it must have been the one and only take they did. It didn’t take me long to realize though that it’s not the actors fault, it’s the fault of a script containing some of the most unnatural and laughably bad dialogue I’ve seen in a long time.
This film is phony baloney. That may not be the most articulate way to a describe a film but if you see it, you’ll agree it describes it perfectly. The subject of this film is teenage depression. Zeller did not say in his introduction if he or screenwriter Christopher Hampton had personal experience with their own children suffering from depression but I’m going to guess that they haven’t. The entire film comes off as if the filmmakers knew absolutely nothing about depression and had never met or had a conversation with someone who was suffering from it. Everything in the film feels fake; fake family, fake dialogue, fake performances. A Hollywood take on an important subject. It’s rife with false notes and dishonesty and completely lacks in any depth whatsoever. It feels like someone’s clueless vanity project.
Bad script. As previously mentioned, horrible unnatural dialogue. Writers who didn’t understand their subject and apparently did not do any kind of research. This feels like a Boomer’s take on Millennial and Gen Z depression and (surprise!) they don’t get it. On top of the groan-inducing ending you can see coming a mile away for this type of film, the message is very muddled as well. The only thing that comes through clear is the theme of generational trauma and mistakes made by fathers are repeated by their sons. The film doesn’t really have anything to say about depression other than “It’s bad.”
The film is told from the point of view of the father (Hugh Jackman) rather than from the son. As a result of this creative choice it makes the film about how hard it is to live with and deal with someone suffering from depression rather than how hard it is for someone who has depression to live and deal with it. The Father (2020) was told from the point of view of the person suffering from Alzheimer’s so I’m dumbfounded that this film didn’t take the same approach.
Zen McGrath’s performance. I don’t normally like to trash young actor’s performances but this one is so bad it can’t go unmentioned. It might actually be the worst part of this film. Every time he’s on screen it’s like nails on a chalkboard. It’s a one-note performance where every line of dialogue in every scene is delivered exactly the same way without any depth or nuance. The purpose of his character is to generate empathy and compassion from the audience but his performance caused me to feel the complete opposite; I kept praying that something would happen so that I would have to see or hear him anymore.
Avoid this film like the plague. All I can say is that I feel really bad for Hugh Jackman. He’s such a nice guy and he always tries so hard. He somehow keeps picking the worst indie projects to do and I hope he manages to land some good ones in the future. He deserves it.