The apple falls lamentably removed from the tree the place Florian Zeller’s “The Son” is anxious.
Protecting 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 car delivered an unflinching, stirringly efficient portrait of dementia as exhibited from the primary character’s ambiguous standpoint, right here, the depiction of teenage acute melancholy settles for shallow character improvement and self-indulgent tropes that distract from a powerful 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 lawyer 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 reside 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 properly 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 short however coldly environment friendly cameo), which additional put his personal parental skills into query.
Simply in case we someway miss the self-esteem 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 photographs of a washer’s spin cycle, which intensify the pervasive sins-of-the-father undercurrent.
All that signaling serves to decrease the influence 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 greatest tailored screenplay Oscar for “The Father”), that in the end provides little of substance to the dialog about scientific melancholy and offers 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 making an attempt to comprise every new scenario that arises, his co-stars have been given much less to encourage them.
Dern, particularly, who has up to now infused so a lot 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 dad or mum 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 footwear of its mentally deteriorating protagonist, making an attempt 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.
Working 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