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Florian Zeller should never be allowed to get away with the cynical audience manipulation he attempts in the film's irredeemable final minutes.

Even if you were swept up by the melodrama of the preceding 110 minutes – and that is a huge if, because the film is mostly a mawkish exercise in fake, forced emotions – there’s no way you’ll swallow the abysmal final scene Florian Zeller tags onto The Son.

Perhaps a sign of unwarranted overconfidence after the awards shower that befell his debut feature The Father two years ago, Zeller should never be allowed to get away with the cynical – and very much predictable – audience manipulation he attempts in those final minutes.

Maybe I’d given him a pass if I had actually cared for any of the characters in The Son, but I didn’t. In part this is due to the acting: old pros Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern seem to be foremost baiting awards, not striving for character detail, while the casting of the wooden, perpetually blank-faced Zen McGrath as the titular teen is a miscalculation of the highest order.

The pedestrian script would however have been hard to overcome in any case, as would the stagey directing style. So unless you’re hunkering for disappointment, better skip The Son altogether.

release: 2022

director: Florian Zeller

starring: Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Zen McGrath, Anthony Hopkins


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