Peter has his busy life with new partner Beth and their baby thrown into disarray when his ex-wife Kate turns up with their teenage son, Nicholas.
Florian Zeller’s follow up to his award winning ‘The Father’ is another adaptation of one of his plays that also (rather awkwardly) is designed to sit as a prequel to that film. In it, we follow Hugh Jackman as Peter, the essentially estranged father of a teenage son (Nicholas, played by Zen McGrath) who has been troubled ever since his father left his mother for another woman many years earlier. When Peter’s ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up at his door to say that Nicholas is depressed and needs his father’s support, it forces Peter to confront his own childhood trauma and become a better father to his son.
Like ‘The Father’, ‘The Son’ also has its origins on stage, and unlike that film, it never really manages to break out of the stage setting and forced melodrama of its story. It’s impressively acted by Jackman, Dern and Vanessa Kirby (as Peter’s new wife Beth) but it can’t escape the limitations of the screenplay which seems to think that big plot developments are a suitable substitute for well-crafted storytelling. The link to ‘The Father’ just doesn’t really fit either, other than to provide a small role for Anthony Hopkins, given both movies appear to be set in the same time period and the stories don’t really fit together – it smacks of Zeller trying to link one successful movie to boost the profile of this one.
On the face of it, ‘The Son’ has an emotional story that should make its audience care, but the character development and motivations are thin and I didn’t buy into the way the plot developed, ultimately meaning the conclusion elicited groans more than the emotion it’s reaching for. It is a shame, as Hugh Jackman is really excellent, and with a better script this may have been a performance that got nominated for awards, but sadly ‘The Son’ is a bit of a damp squib and it doesn’t hold a candle to the sharp and incisive ‘The Father’.
Directed By: Florian Zeller
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zen McGrath, Vanessa Kirby, Laura Dern and Anthony Hopkins