The Son

"Good"

The Son Review


The Son, co-directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's follow-up to 1999's Cannes Palm d'Or winner Rosetta, is a thriller unlike any I've seen before. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that it's not a suspense film in the traditional sense - what keeps the tension at a fever pitch is not the narrative's progress, but the inscrutability and unpredictability of its protagonist, Olivier (Dardenne mainstay Olivier Gourmet, whose coiled performance won Best Actor at Cannes). A carpenter working at a juvenile vocational training center, Olivier is a meticulous, solitary craftsman who seems to live inside his own head. Not surprisingly then, the Dardenne brothers compose their film almost entirely from behind Olivier's cranium. The effect of such a visual approach is one of delightful sneakiness, as if what we're witnessing are surreptitious glimpses of the man's actual life.

With our gaze positioned directly over his shoulder - providing us with an all-too-intimate familiarity with Gourmet's ear hair - the Dardennes force us to assume Olivier's subjective worldview. Still, despite our proximity, scarcely anything about this strange man is initially decipherable. He's a quiet, pensive individual with a gift for measurement - he can scarily deduce the distance between any two things just by looking at them - living a life of stultifying nothingness. The filmmakers, however, take great pains to explicitly tell us as little as possible about Olivier. Most of what we learn about his personality is revealed not courtesy of high drama but instead through watching him perform mundane daily rituals: helping his students with their carpentry assignments, cleaning his clothes with an air blower after a day in the workshop, doing sit-ups on his barren kitchen floor.

Olivier's quiet, measured life is thrown for a loop with the arrival at the center of a young boy named Francis (Morgan Marinne), who, for reasons not immediately known, captures the carpenter's undivided attention. Olivier enrolls Francis in his carpentry class, but it is only after watching the grown man surreptitiously stalk his apprentice around the city that we finally learn why he's so obsessed: Years earlier, Francis killed Olivier's son while trying to steal a car radio. Although Olivier's ex-wife Magali (Isabella Soupart) - who, in a cruel twist of fate, stops by Olivier's apartment on the day of Francis' first appearance to let him know that she is pregnant and re-marrying - is puzzled and appalled by her former spouse's need to form a relationship with Francis, Olivier remains mysteriously focused on getting to know the boy. We watch with baited breath as Olivier shows Francis how to use his new carpentry tools and speaks to him at a local eatery, anxious and unnerved by our inability to grasp Olivier's ultimate intentions. The suspense of trying to decipher his character and motive keeps the viewer interested in his spiritual journey, and deftly propels the film toward its heavily symbolic Christian denouement (Olivier is, after all, a carpenter struggling with issues of forgiveness, selflessness, and healing.)

Yet in spite of the film's unadorned visual grace - the Dardennes' handheld camera captures more than its fair share of stunning moments, the best of which visually demonstrates the unbridgeable gap between Olivier and his former wife - and its single-minded desire to place us in Olivier's head, The Son's emotional remoteness leaves the film feeling frustratingly cold and impersonal. We want to become invested in Olivier's plight, but since the film is deliberately opaque about what he's feeling, the closer the camera gets to its subject, the less one cares about understanding him. The effect that the Dardennes achieve is not unlike what John Cusack's Craig Schwartz must have experienced while hanging out in John Malkovich's head in Being John Malkovich: residing inside someone else's mind without ever really knowing what they're thinking.

Aka Le Fils.



The Son

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th October 2002

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.