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Hugh Jackman and the blinding pain of fatherhood. Florian Zeller’s film review

The hectic life of Rock (Hugh Jackman) with newborn son and new partner Beth (vanessa kirby) is upset when the ex-wife kate (Laura Dern) reappears with his son Nicholas (Zen McGrath), now a teenager. The …

The hectic life of Rock (Hugh Jackman) with newborn son and new partner Beth (vanessa kirby) is upset when the ex-wife kate (Laura Dern) reappears with his son Nicholas (Zen McGrath), now a teenager. The young man has been absent from school for months and is tormented, distant and angry. Peter struggles to take care of Nicholas when he wishes his dad would take care of him, as he juggles his job, Beth’s new baby and offers his dream political career job in Washington . However, in trying to make up for past mistakes, he loses sight of how to hold on to Nicholas in the present.

After entering the mind of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient in the sensational The Father – Nothing is as it seemsa film which forced us to marry the disoriented point of view and the symptomatic absence of certainties of the protagonist embodied by Anthony Hopkins, the French playwright and director Florian Zellerwho for this film had won the Oscar for best non-original screenplay with Christopher Hampton (in addition to the statuette for Hopkins), adapted another of his plays for the big screen, the most recent The sons of 2018, also focused on painful and excruciating family dynamics.

Hampton returned to co-screenwriting with Zeller for the occasion and the action moved from Paris to New York: a fundamental change of scenery also for the economy and the narrative purposes of the story. The sonpresented in Competition a Venice 79. The film compared to The father departs from the psychological intricacies and minutiae of a European apartment (London, in this case) to choose the path of a solid and traditional American sentimental dramaplaced in the aseptic and square cleaning of seemingly perfect and idyllic New York interiors, in which family is a block of alienation and distance, of withered happiness and faded memories, a sense of loss and trauma (the third part of the Zeller trilogy, The motherwhich was also the first to be represented in the theater, will arrive in the cinema later).

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The son of the title, played by a young actor extremely dedicated to giving back the portrait of a boy hostage to his own mental disordersis the catalyst for a very painful vision of fatherhood and motherhood, where efforts to try to understand and empathize with the boy’s discomfort are always futile. Especially in the face of a superficiality of reading which tends to normalize and not to be taken for what it is a pathological state in the strict sense, preferring to incriminate immaturity and unfulfilled obligations, the lack of responsibility and a general detachment from A clear idea of ‚Äč‚Äčachievement and ambition is the only socially accepted way to grasp happiness and personal satisfaction.

The son tells us so much the sufferings of being children as well as the lost securities of fathers, alerting to how simplistic and dangerous it can be to reduce all adolescent pain to the usual patterns of an often unresolved age of life, characterized occasionally by the inability to focus on an ongoing transformation. Compared to The father The son is a proudly conventional film, which lives only on the bursts of actorsmainly thanks to the painful ordeal of a consenting Hugh Jackman, while Laura Dern after the Oscar of Story of a marriage reaffirms the very elegant status of an increasingly mature and complete game, especially in the coexistence of sweetness, coexistence with the loss of the status of wife and mother and the feeling of inadequacy. Anthony Hopkins returns to the place only in a sequence, perhaps by far the most unpleasant, which allows us to concretely visualize the background and the gaps that conceal Jackman’s Peter in the past, immortalizing him too for a moment in his son’s crumpled and helpless clothes, that was it.

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What stands out the most in terms of spaces and words in Zeller’s film adaptation is the sidereal distance that finds its place in the conversations between father and son, in which this mixture of shame, unspoken words and taboos concerning mental health problems prevents a serene, peaceful and direct confrontation. The film privileges this fatal lack, tracing there all its turbulences, even if compared to The fatherwith which the comparison is as inevitable as it is pointless, the balance between the valorization of the theatrical spirit of the text and the fully cinematographic rendering of the transposition leans more canonically in favor of the first of the two factors involved.

In this case, it is not the viewer who is called upon to untangle an emotionally rich and layered cerebral web, as happened in The fatherbut the film follows its automatic pilot of recriminations, poisons and muffled flashbacks, caressed by the heavy hand of nostalgia for an innocent and lost joy, in conflict with the rubble of an overly complicated and indecipherable present. This notion of strangeness is less sophisticated, certainly more popular and Hollywood, but with these premises it still manages to capture a kind of quintessence of mainstream bourgeois dramaby developing it and observing it rigorously from the inside, between pity and pity.

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Photos: See-Saw Films, Film4, Ingenious Media

Read also: Venice 79, Hugh Jackman tells The Son: “Florian Zeller’s text lit a fire in me”

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