Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern Film is torture

TORONTO – First, Florian Zeller wrote the play “The Mother” about depression. Then, in 2020, he directed The Father, a harrowing film adaptation of his drama about dementia, which garnered Anthony Hopkins an Academy Award for Best Actor. And now The Son has its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Movie review

Running time: 125 minutes. Not yet rated. In theaters November 11th.

Please, Post editors, please – don’t make me review The Third Cousin Once Removed! I can’t take much fancier French boredom!

“Son”, suffice it to say, has nothing to do with “father”. Zeller’s latest mental health film is an exhaustingly boring experience that has you glancing at your watch several times a minute while taking breaks from giggling at the awkward dialogue. The writing is awful, there is no dramatic build-up to speak of, and the acting together amounts to incessant howling, like a dog left home alone during a storm.

The titular child is 17-year-old Nicholas (Zen McGrath), whose mother Kate (Laura Dern) recently found out he’s been absent from class for a month. Overcome with desperation, he asks to change high schools and live with his father, Peter (Hugh Jackman), Kate’s ex-husband, who has a new younger wife named Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a newborn boy.

Zen McGrath, Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman in the new movie, "The son."
Nicholas (Zen McGrath, left), Kate (Laura Dern) and Peter (Hugh Jackman) in the new movie The Son.

Nick packs his suitcase and heads to one of those spacious, modern Manhattan movie apartments that infuriate New Yorkers wondering if their 500-square-foot postage stamp will fit on a small couch. Beth sips wine in her airy open kitchen and wears baggy, neutral clothing that looks like it comes with a free oat milk latte.

After a few weeks, Nicholas seems to be doing better, but he’s still having weird outbursts – and Beth is terrified he’s around her child. He doesn’t make friends at school.

“They are only interested in parties and fun. I’m not interested in any of that,” reads one of his lines, which could have been written by Siri (Christopher Hampton is the translator).

His parents keep asking him, “Are you unhappy?” and he keeps telling them huge red flags like “I’m not meant for this life” or that he “can’t live anymore.” He says he is overcome with pain. He then starts cutting himself in the arm with a knife his stepmother finds under his mattress.

You want to jump through the screen, grab those idiot adults by the shoulders and shake them.

Zeller and Hugh Jackman at the 2022 Sony Pictures Classics TIFF Celebration Dinner at Morton's The Steakhouse on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario.
Laura Dern (from left), director Florian Zeller and Hugh Jackman at a celebration dinner September 10 in Toronto.
Getty Images for Sony Pictures Classics

The only responsible option, from the first 10 seconds of this film to the end, would be to get professional help for this poor boy right away – even if he protests vehemently. But these hopeless guardians are as dumb and dumb as a human can get. Obviously, fixing a problem right away doesn’t make a movie. However, we must understand the reasons behind their misguided decisions and sympathize with them. Instead, we hate and resent them for poor planning and development. Going on a two-hour trip with these jerks is exhausting to say the least.

Again, no actor is particularly good, although McGrath has a consistent authenticity through youthful inexperience. Jackman and Dern give over-the-top performances that never ring true. Part of the blame lies in the strictly formal and repetitive script, derived from French, translated by a Briton and spoken by New Yorkers.

Nicholas says, “Am I disturbing you?” three different times. Who is he? Sting?

Kirby, a wonderful film actress, is okay but pretty macabre.

Hopkins also has a small role here as Peter’s neglectful father, who is essentially a “Batman” villain.

Jackman, meanwhile, tends to remain idle until an opportunity to cry or scream presents itself, and then he goes into town as if Euripides was sitting in the back row.

Zeller’s passion for writing mental health stories is undoubtedly a worthy one. And its final scene will rock and excite you, no matter how sluggish, stone cold, and poorly acted the previous two hours have been.

Doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, the overwhelming realization is: like “father”, like “son” does not.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/13/the-son-review-hugh-jackman-laura-dern-movie-is-torture/ Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern Film is torture

Emma Bowman

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