The Son

The Son, 2022, 2 ½ stars

The Son  is no Father

Exclusive to MeierMovies, February 25, 2023

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the saying goes – unless you’re The Son, which has little in common with The Father.

Both films were birthed by French writer and director Florian Zeller. And despite The Son’s pedigree as a prequel to The Father, the only obvious similarity is the presence of Anthony Hopkins.

The plot is wholly different. Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a successful New York lawyer who has recently remarried. His 17-year-old son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath), has dropped out of school. The reasons are unclear, but depression, anxiety and bullying are suspected.

Complicating matters is the dysfunctional nature of the extended family. Peter has a baby with his new wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and a close but contentious relationship with his ex-wife, Kate, (Laura Dern). And, of course, there’s Nicholas, who can’t seem to relate to or confide in anyone. Even more strained is the relationship between Peter and his own father, Anthony, played by Hopkins in what might appear like a younger version of his character from The Father. But this new character has seemingly nothing in common with the much better role in that much better 2020 film.

Both The Father and The Son are based on Zeller’s plays, with this newest movie adapted from his and Christopher Hampton’s 2018 work. But while The Father moved seamlessly from stage to screen, The Son is clunky, stagey and emotionally predictable. A twist ending is somewhat effective, and all the performers have their moments, especially Jackman, who received a Golden Globe nomination, but Zeller’s screenplay and direction never offer us quite enough to grab hold of, or surprise us. Those suffering similar life circumstances will undoubtedly be moved but will likely still be struck by the derivativeness, not to mention, of course, the unpleasantness of the subject.

The best I can say is I was intrigued by to whom “the son” refers. On first blush, it’s Nicholas. But after an emotionally painful scene between Peter and Anthony, I realized it could just as easily refer to that older relationship, which would illustrate the multi-generational baggage and elevate the story from a coming-of-age tale to a commentary on families that are unable to break free of their past. If that latter hypothesis is valid, it’s further proof that Zeller and Hampton had their hands on something potentially profound but simply got a bit lost along the way.

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For more information on this movie, visit IMDB and Wikipedia