Florian Zeller's 'The Son' tackles youth depression

By Moira Sullivan

Florian Zeller is an exciting director who has made two relevant and meaningful films about difficult subjects. He explores a daughter's relationship with her father who has Alzheimer's in The Father (2020), and in The Son(2022)a father's relationship with his chronically depressed young son. His latest film provides a painful look at a tortured young man. The seemingly bottomless pain is seldom so openly revealed. Even if Hugh Jackman as Peter is excellent, the stellar performance is Zen McGrath as Nicholas, Peter’s son. The film debuted at Venice in September.

While it seems to be Peter’s new marriage to Beth (Vanessa Kirby)and their new infant that has made Nicholas majorly depressed it could also be the bust up of Peter and Kate (Laura Deren) Nicholas’ parents. The film script sets up plenty of draconian evidence for why Nicholas is depressed with flashbacks to when the original nuclear family was harmonious such as on idyllic holidays. But, Nicholas just does not feel good anymore no matter how he changes his environment. There is pressure from his father to succeed and school is considered a vital component. He decides he can’t live anymore with his mother and has been skipping school. He asks to live with his father and Beth. It doesn’t provide the results he expects, and he still skips school. Peter feels guilty about busting up his family and taking a new wife and tries to compensate with an interest in his son's well-being. The expectation is if only the clock can be turned back to when Nicolas was last happy. Zen McGrath is excellent in this role in conveying his darkness as a deep seated malaise. Youth is generally considered the happiest time in life but suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.

The core to the dramatic content is when Nicolas is committed for observation for an attempted suicide. His doctor tries to convince Beth and Peter that taking him out too soon may seem to be what Nicholas would like but the chances of him trying to harm himself again are too high. The Son shows that it is not only the home life that makes a person feel good but the individual apart from family. What can be done for someone who just does not feel good? The Father and The Son are both based on plays by Christopher Hampton Now playing in the Bay Area.

© 2023 - Moira Jean Sullivan: 01/28/23
Movie Magazine International