The Son

The Son

ZFF 2022 #13

Without the visual and narrative trickery of The Father to dazzle his way out of his pedestrian writing, Florian Zeller has nowhere to go other than shallow, overwritten melodrama and cheap emotional shock value, whose main creative concept seems to be to make its audience feel as bad as possible. Comically dour and maddeningly insistent on its own dramatic gravitas, The Son moves in interminable circles for about 90 of its 120 minutes, before delivering a cynically manipulative climax that is underpinned by one of the more superficial ideas of depression I've come across.

It's also stunning how poorly this play script has been adapted for the screen, leaving in place all the redundant verbalisations of characters' feelings and internal conflicts (because on stage, as opposed to the cinema, you can't really count on viewers picking up on facial cues) and hyper-artificial, dramatic pause-riddled dialogue. No wonder that all the actors – bar maybe Anthony Hopkins – struggle to elevate the material in any discernible way.

Frightful, but not in a good way.

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