Directed by Florian Zeller, who adapted his play with co-writer Christopher Hampton, “The Son” stars Jackson as Peter, a successful lawyer whose eldest son Nicholas (newcomer Zen McGrath) suffers from severe depression. After failing to attend school for three months, Nicholas leaves his mother Kate’s (Laura Dern) home to live permanently with Peter, his younger partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and their infant child. Although Peter attempts to be supportive of his son, the new arrangement soon causes tension in his relationship with Beth, and his inability to understand Nicholas’ demons causes the teen to drift further away from him.
“I’ve tried to be there for you, I’ve tried to give you strength, what’s going on?” Jackson says during an emotional confrontation seen in the trailer. “You think you can just live your life doing whatever you feel like?”
“The Son” is Zeller’s second film after 2020’s “The Father.” Both films are adapted from a trilogy of plays the French writer wrote and produced between 2010 and 2018 — the first installment, “The Mother,” is the only one that hasn’t yet been adapted to the screen. “The Father” was critically acclaimed upon release, with Zeller and Hampton winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and Anthony Hopkins nabbing Best Actor for his turn as an elderly man suffering from dementia. Hopkins has a brief, memorable turn in the film as Peter’s father, but the two films are otherwise unconnected.
Although Jackman received critical praise for his performance and is considered a frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars, “The Son” on the whole received a mixed reception when it screened at the Venice and Toronto International Film festivals this September. Many critics particularly criticized the screenplay, deeming it artificial and emotionally manipulative. In his review out of Venice, IndieWire chief film critic David Ehrlich called the film “pornographic in its pain” and that its script is “too suffocated by the severity of its writing and the sterility of its environments for the film’s characters to grow beyond the scenarios they represent.”
Sony Pictures Classics releases “The Son” in select theaters November 25. Watch the trailer below.