After the massive success of The Father, Florian Zeller returns with The Son (2022). It’s a portrait of a father struggling to bond with his son, who is battling mental health issues. While The Father was deeply moving, honest, and tragic, The Son fails to make a mark. However, its description of a dysfunctional family is genuine, accurate, and well-intentioned.
Hugh Jackman (Peter) plays the role of the father and isn’t quite convincing. On the flip side, Zen McGrath, the boy who plays the role of his son, is outstanding and will definitely leave the audience teary-eyed.
The Son (2022) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The film follows the heartbreaking story of Nicholas, the 17-year-old son who doesn’t want to live with his mother anymore. He hasn’t been to school in almost a month, and his mother, played by the Little Big Lies fame, Laura Dern, reaches out to her ex-husband, Peter, and informs him about their son’s mental health condition.
Peter is married to Beth and has a baby with her. He is rich and successful. He is happy in his marriage and lives with his new wife in a beautiful apartment. Furthermore, he is an adoring father to his newborn baby. Nevertheless, Peter meets Nicholas, and the son confesses that he doesn’t want to live with his mother and wants to seek refuge at his father’s place. Peter agrees to this and welcomes his depressed son to his home.
What is the problem with Nicholas?
Soon after Nicholas starts living with Peter, he enrolls him in a new school. He is also convinced that this new atmosphere is working in his favor, and things are genuinely turning around. But they are not. It’s still the same with Nicholas. He is still sad and indulges in self-harm. This depression perhaps stems from having an absent father and having to witness his parents go through a divorce.
Peter’s new wife is a little cold toward Nicholas. She doesn’t want him around. In a heated argument with Peter, she yells at him and says that his son is mentally disturbed and she can’t have him around her newborn baby. She is afraid he would do something to the infant. Nicholas witnessed this brawl and suppresses his emotions.
Is Peter a good father to Nicholas?
Peter tries his best to form a strong emotional connection with his son, but he fails miserably. Not for his lack of trying, though. He knows nothing about his son because the boy spent the majority of his life living with his mother. Moreover, Peter has a busy work life, and this further causes him to become more distant from his first family.
Nicholas’ history of self-harm is what makes Peter want to understand his son’s situation and him in any way he can. He is devoted to saving his son from his mental agony. When he is trying to bond with Peter, the audience can feel how Peter is a little negligent toward his son’s needs and wishes. In fact, Peter ignores his son and spends more time with Beth and the baby.
Does Nicholas get better?
When Peter finds out Nicholas hasn’t been attending school again and just roams around the park aimlessly, he confronts his son about this. They engage in an argument, and he accuses Nicholas of being ungrateful. He tells him how hard he works for him. In retaliation, Nicholas accuses Peter of being irresponsible and a bad father. Right after this conflict, Nicholas tries to kill himself.
He is rushed to the hospital, and the doctors advise the parents to let him stay at the medical facility so they can look after Nicholas till he is out of his depression. They are not convinced that Nicholas is mentally stable to walk out of this facility. They warn Peter that he is a danger to himself if he walks out of there untreated. Nicholas has a meltdown when he hears this conversation between the doctor and his parents.
He pleads with them to take him out of the facility. Nicholas is worried that his father will once again abandon him. His deep-seated fear of abandonment is one of the reasons for his insecure attachment style. He worries he would have to spend time without his father again. Despite the strict warnings from the doctor, Peter and Kate decide to take him home as they think his mental health would be better if he stayed with his family.
The Son (2022) Movie Ending, Explained:
Does Nicholas kill himself?
When they take him out of the psychiatric facility, Nicholas seems to be doing good. He seems happy and content. He talks to everyone in the house and appears to be changing. Nicholas even gives a speech and sounds genuinely grateful to have a family like this. After his appreciation monologue for his family, he goes back to his room.
But soon, the viewers hear a gun being fired. Subsequently, the scene jumps to the later years of Peter’s life. The climax of this depressive drama may leave the audience confused. Peter is seen dreaming about the happy times he shared with his son at the end of the movie. He is seen teaching his son how to swim in this dream scenario.
The Son (2022) Movie Themes Analyzed:
The Dream sequence Explained:
It’s a metaphor for teaching his son how to sail through the turbulent waves of life. It always sinks or swims in life. Unfortunately, in reality, his son failed to swim. He gave up. In his dream scenario, Nicholas learns how to swim, and Peter is so proud of his son.
A son always wants his father to be there for him. In fact, one’s father is his first role model and best friend. Nicholas didn’t have a father growing up, and this majorly contributed to his acute depression.
Self-harm and despair:
In one of the arguments, Nicholas tells Peter that self-harm helps him channel his pain better. It’s like an output to release all the anguish inside him. Where does this pain come from? From not being loved enough by his father or because his father loves him despite being an irresponsible son? Perhaps both. He knows nothing can save him now. He is hopeless, and this despair gets the better of him, so he decides to take his own life.
To sum up, The Son has nothing new to offer. It lacks creativity, and there is no originality in the script. The story is simple and obvious. The characters are ordinary. Most importantly, the entire father-son dynamics is too cliched and repetitive.
Nevertheless, if you are into brooding character studies, this movie will be a good watch for you. But if you are someone who likes fast-paced movies with a lot of subplots, twists, and turns, The Son will be a snooze-fest for you.