The Son movie review and movie summary (2022)

Peter is a very successful professional who has important meetings about financial matters in a large office with an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline. He is married to Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and they have a baby named Theo. They live in a beautiful apartment with tastefully exposed brick walls. As the movie begins, Beth soothes Theo to sleep with a lullaby and Peter smiles at them. They are a perfect, happy family. But then Kate (Laura Dern) rings the doorbell. She is Peter’s first wife, and she has bad news about their 17-year-old son Nicholas (Zen McGrath). For the past month, he has not turned up at school.

Nicholas moves in with Peter, Beth and Theo and starts a new school. Peter is convinced that things are turning around for Nicholas. They are not.

There is nothing more painful than having a child suffer and perhaps it is understandable that Peter and Kate are in denial about how serious the battle is for Nicholas. But in 21st-century Manhattan, it’s inconceivable that affluent parents would be so ignorant, self-involved, and disconnected from available resources as to confuse their answers so badly. There are some affecting scenes, particularly one where Kate, with Dern heartbreakingly vulnerable, tells Peter that she feels like she’s failed. And Hopkins, as Peter’s icy father, is thrillingly narcissistic.

The scene is meant to connect to the rest of the story and illuminate Peter’s conflicts and his tendency to see his son as a barometer of his success. But it falls short. The film occasionally gives us a sense of the relentless impact of mental illness on caregivers; how a sick family member, especially a child, breaks the spirit of those who care the most. When he finally loses his temper, though, it’s more about his feelings than Nicholas’s, and his desperate attempts to essentially order his son to be better portrayed with more sympathy from Zeller than they deserve from us.

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