The Son is directed by Florian Zeller who previously did one of the strongest films of 2020 called The Father (The Father, The Son … hopefully the next one won’t be The Holy Spirit). Hugh Jackman plays a father whose son (Zen McGrath) begins to suffer from depression.
Everything about this movie is bad. The writing is terrible, the editing is terrible, the acting is terrible, the direction is terrible, and the story is terrible. I lost count of the number of ridiculous cotton-mouth lines that bear no resemblance to how humans communicate, and good actors who could make reading the phone book entertaining would fail to make the characters in this script come alive. This movie is bad bad bad bad bad bad. And that is just the beginning.
The Son is dangerously irresponsible because this movie’s depiction of mental illness is blatantly awful. It was written by somebody’s Psychology 101 notes after they slept through most of the classes. It is not a film that builds compassion to people suffering from depression, and it is not a film that understands its subject matter.
Depression can be idiopathic – coming from no discernible cause – but the film doesn’t commit to that premise. Rather, halfway through, we find out that the teenager is upset about his parents’ divorce. A film that understands depression might have explored how these feelings can come on mysteriously, or a film that understands depression would realize that it manifests in uncinematic ways instead of a character tearfully complaining that he’s sad at the top of his voice.
Jackman’s character is meant to be a good father, one who’s making up for the mistakes of his own dad (Anthony Hopkins in the only good scene in the film). But he fails to use the many mental health care sources at his disposal and treats prioritizing his son over his career opportunities as a burdensome but necessary sacrifice. The Son seems to say, “See: even rich people can’t stave off depression’s inevitable end.” And the final message is unrelentingly hopeless, and the lingering camera focused on tearful characters lacks restraint or taste.
Teenage depression and mental health care are difficult subjects, and there is no sensitivity, nuance, or expert knowledge to how this film deals with its subject matter. Depression is real and serious, and it requires really serious people to portray it intelligently and constructively; instead, The Son is a bunch of pop-psych nonsense that should be summarily rejected.
Find mental health and suicide prevention resources at https://www.in.gov/issp/.