The Son review: an emotionally manipulative family drama

The Son wants you to feel things — namely, regret, heartbreak, sorrow, and helplessness. Despite featuring a handful of talented and very game performers, though, the biggest

feeling The Son creates is frustration. The film elicits such a reaction through not only the deeply flawed ways in which it tells its story but also through the myriad of easily

avoidable creative mistakes that its filmmakers make across its laborious 123-minute runtime. What’s even worse is that there’s no reason to go into The Son expecting it to

be such an inauthentic, blatantly manipulative drama. In 2020, its director, Florian Zeller, managed to create a far better film with The Father, which was, like The Son, adapted

from one of Zeller’s plays and even explores a similar tale of familial strife. Unfortunately, all the missteps that Zeller could have made in The Father he ends up making in The

Son — resulting in a film that’s not heartbreaking so much as it is intensely irritating. To Zeller’s credit, The Son doesn’t struggle to feel cinematic in the same way so

many previous stage-to-screen adaptations have. While most of the film takes place in one New York apartment, Zeller and cinematographer Ben Smithard succeed at making the space

feel expansive enough that The Son’s scope doesn’t ever feel theatrically restricted. Zeller, in fact, makes great use of the film’s central space from its opening scene, which

follows Peter (Hugh Jackman), a remarried man, and his second wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), as they receive a surprise visit from his ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern).