The Reel Review


A successful businessman living with his new wife and newborn son must face his own shortcomings as a parent when his clinically depressed teenage son comes to live with them. Hugh Jackman, Zen McGrath, and Laura Dern star in writer/director Florian Zeller’s second film adaptation from his Mother/Father/Son stage play trilogy.

Hugh Jackman and Zen McGrath in The Son

Viewers expecting this drama to explore depression from the son’s perspective, as Zeller did so well with dementia in The Father, will be disappointed. Instead, The Son focuses on Peter, the boy’s clueless disaster of a father (Jackman), and how depression repels the son’s loved ones, as he uses his illness and their guilt to exploit their misguided efforts to help him.

Zen McGrath, Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman in The Son

The result is an overly simplistic film that ironically is itself at times repellent. Flashbacks of simpler, happier times and a lunch with Anthony Hopkins as Peter’s hateful, cold hearted father, while revealing, feel contrived. Performances are strong, in particular Jackman, but a jarring and momentarily confusing finalé ends the well-intended film on an unnecessarily clumsy note.


Florian Zeller with his Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in April 2021 for The Father

• Director Florian Zeller won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in his screenwriting and directing debut, alongside co-writer Christopher Hampton, for 2020’s The Father.

• Zeller dedicated The Son to his stepson Gabriel Écoffey (Happening), who has struggled with depression and plays the office intern in the movie.

• If you or someone you know in the U.S. is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Hotline at 988 to communicate with a licensed therapist.


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