|20 january 2023
With his first film The Father (2020), director and screenwriter Florian Zeller became one of the most critically acclaimed French directors. Awarded two Oscars (best adapted screenplay for Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller; best actor for Anthony Hopkins), we were looking forward to his second film and even if the result is not as successful as this one, we have to admit that The Son is once again an exemplary success for Florian Zeller. After the originality of the first one, we feel through this film a kind of decal and a minimal risk from this writer who went on to direct in order to adapt his own plays to the cinema.
We can only congratulate him for this and again his collaboration as for the previous film with Christopher Hampton gives life to an exciting, moving and thought-provoking film on our society, this constant thirst for success and especially on the search for a perfect balance between his work and his private life. Even if The Son is not a sequel to The Father, we feel a real link between the two films. This link is reinforced by the presence in a short important scene of the actor Anthony Hopkins always so perfect on the screen.
The son is the adaptation by the director and screenwriter Florian Zeller supported by Christopher Hampton of his own play. Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a divorced father whose son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) from his previous marriage to Kate (Laura Dern) seems to be struggling to get over their divorce. As his work takes up much of his time to the detriment of his married life with Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their newborn son, he must not only deal with his son's concerns but also face a conflicted relationship with his own father. The film The Son thus moves towards an inexorable drama whose end is clearly premeditated from the beginning. Of course, this does not take away from the emotional strength of this film, but one tends to detect the same mechanics of Florian Zeller as for his previous film.
By putting at the center of the film the themes of family, the harmful effects of divorce and unhappiness, the director Florian Zeller seems to use the same springs as his previous film but shows a real gift for storytelling to lead the audience to reflection. The director succeeds in creating throughout the film an important dramatic tension and in sending us back to our own fears of disappointing our loved ones and of not succeeding in life. The young Nicholas is the perfect example of the young teenager who can't overcome his demons and who will not succeed in facing his mother's distress and having a father who seems to have run away from home in order to better succeed in life and meet a younger woman who is better able to satisfy his expectations. Hugh Jackman, who is more used to successful American blockbusters such as the X-men saga but also films like Real Steel (2011), The Greatest Showman (2017), shows once again that he is a complete actor capable of dancing, singing, or being at ease in dramatic films or action scenes. The success of this film is largely due to his presence and the fact that he is totally invested in his character.
It would be nice now if the director would take more important risks for his next film or propose an original scenario in which he could show that he is capable of doing something else than successful adaptations of his plays and especially continue to show that he is an outstanding storyteller to send to the audience a realistic vision of our current society.
Directed by Florian Zeller
Screenplay by Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton
Based on The Son by Florian Zeller
Produced by Joanna Laurie, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Florian Zeller, Christophe Spadone
Starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath, Anthony Hopkins
Cinematography : Ben Smithard
Edited by Yorgos Lamprinos
Music by Hans Zimmer
Production companies : Film4 Productions, Ingenious Media, Cross City Films, Embankment Films, See-Saw Films, Inthevoid Production
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics (United States), UGC Distribution (France), Lionsgate UK (United Kingdom)
Release dates : 7 September 2022 (Venice), 20 January 2023 (United States), 17 February 2023 (United Kingdom), 8 March 2023 (France)
Running time : 123 minutes
Seen on February 20, 2023 at the Cinémathèque de Paris