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The Son fails to live up to its predecessor, The Father, due to its lack of originality

Rose Dorgan delves into the successes and failures of the film, The Son (2022). The plot appears unoriginal and the on-screen relationships feel forced. Read further to find out why...

By Rose Dorgan, Third Year, English

The announcement of Florian Zeller’s new flick The Son (2022) excited me, it being the prequel for his uniquely moving creation starring Anthony Hopkins, The Father (2020). I had high hopes, as matching the flawless script and performances which earned Zeller such notoriety seemed unachievable – I was right. This film feels distant from his previous work, immediately through its disconnection from the British setting, and through its failure to extend the intimacy which was so imposing throughout The Father.

Following this profound exposure of the inner reality of dementia, The Son attempts to achieve a similarly palpable portrayal of teenage depression. However, at times, his depiction of the depression which Nicholas (Zen McGrath) endures fails to distance itself from cliché, with Zeller simply re-creating the modern-day archetype of cinematic melancholy.

Courtesy of IMDB

This failure to deliver an authentic, unique illustration of depression is not helped by Zeller’s struggle to establish believable on-screen relationships. Instead, we are presented with a (rather predictably) dysfunctional family structure, which becomes merely a convenient tool in progressing the plot.

It took a good while for me to empathise with the family dynamic, making it difficult to respond to even the most emotional scenes. Only adding to this, Anthony Hopkins makes an abrupt appearance around an hour in, which feels like a forced attempt to tie the film with its forerunner.

Olivia Coleman as Anne and Anthony Hopkins as Anthony in The Father (2020) // Courtesy of IMDB

It is the performances which are the saving grace of The Son, both Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern are poignant in conveying a parent’s painful desperation whilst witnessing their child’s downward spiral.

However, despite the star-studded cast, it is Zen McGrath who is the shining star. In the face of a rather lacklustre script, McGrath is triumphant in portraying the sheer loneliness which often characterises mental illness. Although this flick is far inferior to its predecessor, Zeller’s clear passion for exploring psychological illness and its impact on family remains resonant.

Whilst The Father allowed us to perceive the world through the lens of a father with dementia, The Son permits us the perspective of a father helplessly watching his son battle with his own mind. What pursues is a powerful underlying commentary on familial and generational trauma; it’s a shame the content of the film fails to match such an interesting subtext.

Courtesy of IMDB

One thing is for sure though, I do believe that this is one of those films that (very) slowly but surely grows on you. Its most powerful moments are in the turbulence of its final twenty minutes. The Son lacks consistency in quality and tone, and its clichés fooled me into assuming there would be a fittingly predictable ending – instead, the final moments exemplify Zeller’s capability to reach out and experiment with the psychological drama genre.

Featured Image: Courtesy of IMDB

Did you prefer The Son (2022) or The Father (2020)?