4.5/10 Co-writer/director Florian Zeller made his directorial film debut with the 4th best film of 2021, “The Father” (9/10), which won Anthony Hopkins his second Best Actor Academy Award. Zeller adapted the film from his own stage play and was able to translate the play into a cinematic film incredibly well. It makes this all the more disappointing that his follow up, also adapted from one of his stage plays, is such a mediocre let down. While certain aspects do work, overall there are many missteps that make this a sophomore slump that makes me yearn to revisit “The Father”. “The Son” is about a depressed teenager named Nicholas Miller (Zen McGrath) and his struggles with suicidal ideations. His mother Kate (Laura Dern) can no longer handle him and his father Peter (Hugh Jackman) is living with his new wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their newborn son. Peter and Beth have their lives uprooted when Nicholas comes to live with them. The timing of “The Son” is interesting in that it came out a little over a month after Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” (7.5/10) and there are several similarities. Both are adapted from stage plays and written or co-written by the original playwright. Both have a father dealing with extreme hardships brought on by their teenage child, who won’t open up to them. Yet while “The Whale” was able to do much more with even fewer locations, “The Son” struggles with surprisingly bland direction, a forgettable score from the usually reliable Hanz Zimmer and McGrath’s disappointing performance. While Jackman is phenomenal (as usual) and Dern, Kirby and the supporting cast are all top notch, McGrath’s acting leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t help that his character comes off as a whiny little bitch. While depression and suicidal ideations are real struggles for millions of people around the world (myself included), we are never given ample reason as to why Nicholas is struggling so much or how he devolved from a happy, young boy to an emo, “woe is me”, teenager. While I certainly understand that diagnosed depression is often a chemical imbalance in the brain and not necessarily brought on by some specific, traumatic event, there is an alleged event at the old school that Nicholas used to attend that is hinted at but never revealed. Nicholas comes across as having an easy, privileged life yet all he does is complain about being in pain while making little to no effort to change his ways or improve upon his life in any meaningful way. Instead he lies to everyone trying to help him and ditches school. While it is true that his father abandoned him and his mother when he fell in love with another woman, Nicholas takes what is a (sadly) common problem today, divorce, and treats it like wartime PTSD and I never bought it. There are also some silly aspects that felt rather dumb to me. One example is that despite having his suicidal son in his home, Peter keeps a loaded gun in the laundry room and doesn’t bother to lock it up or any of the kitchen knives, that could easily be moved somewhere safer and only removed with a lock and key. Another head scratching moment is when Peter and Kate are speaking to a doctor at a psych hospital and the doctor tells them that they have to make a certain decision right then and there, which is not how that works in real life. While the acting overall is phenomenal and the pacing works incredibly well, the overall plot, grating main character and some unearned misdirection near the end of the movie bring down what could have been a solid follow up to an incredible directorial debut. Skip “The Son” and check out “The Father” (although prepare for water works) if you want to see how a stage play can be properly adapted.

#TheBother / #TheHouseOfTheFallingSon / #GenZWithZenMcG / #DadEducation / #FIsForFirearm / #TheTwoCopes

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