The apple falls lamentably removed from the tree the place Florian Zeller’s “The Son” is worried.
Holding it within the thematic household — however not the identical household — as his heralded 2020 directorial debut, “The Father,” which deservedly earned an Oscar for star Anthony Hopkins, the movie, like its predecessor, started life as a part of a stage trilogy coping with numerous manifestations of psychological sickness.
However the place the Hopkins automobile delivered an unflinching, stirringly efficient portrait of dementia as exhibited from the principle character’s ambiguous standpoint, right here, the depiction of teenage acute despair settles for shallow character growth and self-indulgent tropes that distract from a robust Hugh Jackman efficiency.
Settling right into a second marriage with significantly youthful Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a new child son, Jackman’s Peter Miller is a profitable Manhattan legal professional with political ambitions whose seemingly unflappable reserve threatens to burst on the seams after his troubled 17-year-old son, Nicholas (newcomer Zen McGrath), involves stay with them.
“You can’t just abandon him,” chastens harried ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern), however Peter’s subsequent makes an attempt to bond together with his incommunicative child are thwarted by decidedly darker, suicidal impulses going nicely past Nicholas’ resentment over his dad and mom’ divorce.
They serve to untether Peter’s barely disguised dysfunctional relationship together with his personal bullying dad (Hopkins, in a quick however coldly environment friendly cameo), which additional put his personal parental talents into query.
Simply in case we one way or the other miss the vanity that each Peter and Nicholas may equally lay declare to the movie’s title, Zeller retains throwing in visible cues, together with a number of pictures of a washer’s spin cycle, which intensify the pervasive sins-of-the-father undercurrent.
All that signaling serves to decrease the impression of a not unanticipated “shock” denouement that strives for poignancy however in the end flirts with mawkishness.
Strip away the pointless directorial thrives and also you’re left with a script, once more co-written by Zeller and Christopher Hampton (they shared a finest tailored screenplay Oscar for “The Father”), that in the end provides little of substance to the dialog about medical despair and supplies inadequate depth for its supporting characters.
Whereas Jackman stays completely linked to the position of Peter — a person who in the end implodes beneath the sheer weight of trying to comprise every new state of affairs that arises, his co-stars have been given much less to encourage them.
Dern, particularly, who has prior to now infused so lots of her characters with a spirited spark, is wasted right here, caught in perpetually anguished mode because the wronged spouse and distraught mom.
Zeller and Hampton, who additionally collaborated on the English-language translation of the primary play in his trilogy, “The Mother,” which had a 2019 run in New York, starring Isabelle Huppert as a mum or dad wrestling with emotional stability, have come up disappointingly brief this time round.
The place “The Father” succeeded brilliantly in putting the viewer straight within the shuffling sneakers of its mentally deteriorating protagonist, trying to navigate the smudged boundaries between previous and current, “The Son” persists in holding its characters and their all-too-real struggles frustratingly out of attain.
Ranking: PG-13, for mature thematic content material involving suicide, and powerful language.
Operating Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Enjoying: Begins Nov. 25 at Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles, and AMC Sundown 5, West Hollywood, for a one-week awards qualifying run