ChadS.10Suddenly, every banal action by this sullen carpenter is significant. Our focus moves away from an overwhelming awareness that this film is being shot with a handheld camera, and onto the blank slate of a face we suspect is a signpost for an imploding soul. Before our very eyes, "The Son" transforms from a stunt into truth, artifice into edifying art. Emilie Dequenne is easier on the eyes than Olivier Gourmet, but "The Son" probably surpasses the Palm d'or-winning "Rosetta" from Cannes '99, simply because we're in disbelief that these talented filmmakers made another great film with this avant-garde approach that stops precariously short of being arch. Ultimately, "The Son" is a suspense film. Without any music cues to prepare us, we're kept on edge everytime the mentor is out of frame in context with his younger companion.… Expand
"The Son" is a shrewd, highly controlled little film from Belgium that builds to an unexpected emotional climax. Though distant and almost documentary-like in style, it never stops bringing us deeper into the characters' world and into their pain. In other hands, "The Son" could easily have been a straightforward revenge thriller. Yet the Dardenne brothers shy away from melodramatic flourishes: there's no music in the film, the performances are understated, and it's the gestures of the characters which are psychologically revealing--as opposed to their dialogue.
Olivier (Olivier Gourmet), is a carpenter who teaches the craft to teenagers seeking a vocation. Olivier's routine is interrupted by the enrollment of a new student, Francis (Morgan Marinne), who becomes the object of the carpenter's inexplicable obsession. Speaking with his ex-wife, Magali (Isabella Soupart), about his new charge, Olivier reveals the reason for his fixation--Francis was the young street tough who murdered their child years ago. Now out of juvenile prison, Francis seeks to start anew, and eventually even asks the flummoxed Olivier to become his guardian. Olivier withholds his knowledge from Francis, even as a tentative relationship between the two develops. The tense scenario leads to a climactic confrontation, as the past finally catches up with teacher and student. Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne visual style is claustrophobically disorientating. The camera stays tight on Olivier Gourmet--he is in almost every shot, a handheld camera films him from his shoulders up, subjecting him to a scrutiny we rarely encounter onscreen. The scrutiny pays off, for soon we're able to read into the face of this unsmiling man and an underlying sorrow. This also adds to the sense of suspense and unknowing, while the jerky camera cuts suggest his internal agitation. The film is stripped-bare, and only the essential elements remain.
The true challenge posed by the film is not piecing together the story, nor teasing out its meaning, but embracing its implications in our own lives. Not that "The Son" is a "message" film it isn't but it is one of the most profoundly moral and human films I have seen in years. On first viewing, "The Son"'s rigorous method makes for comparatively demanding viewing. The Dardennes aren't interested in entertaining the viewer-- but in something far more valuable. The difficulty of the first viewing, though, becomes irrelevant in light of its rewards, and subsequent viewings only deepen those rewards.… Expand
KaterinaD.2It could have been a very good film, but it isn't as it is very empty - no emotions, neither some story to keep your mind busy.