“The Son,” the new film from directors Jean-Pierre and Luc
Dardenne, opened this week at the Madstone Theater as a promotion
for the 42nd annual Ann Arbor Film Festival. Innovative and thought
provoking, this emotional French drama boasts a performance by
Olivier Gourmet, recipient of the Best Actor honors at Cannes Film
Festival for his portrayal of the conflicted carpenter Olivier.

The story revolves around Olivier, a divorced vocational
carpentry instructor whose tragic past has left him trapped in a
hauntingly routine existence. The key to his misery appears with
his new student Francis, played by Morgan Marinne. Unbeknownst to
him, this 16-year-old student’s past is dangerously linked to his

Gourmet is an expert at layering his emotions and allowing them
to slowly peel away, revealing a new dimension to his character
with every twist of the plot. He is fascinated with the boy. As his
obsession grows, an unexpected relationship also develops,
obstructing his judgment and creating a startling bond between the

The intriguing relationship between the two men is what makes
this sometimes deliberate film worthwhile. The end result is
rewarding if one has the patience to wade through the lengthy
silent shots which abandon dialogue and music for more subtle
visual stimuli.

In a solid performance Marinne wisely underplays, using mystery
and vulnerability to create more questions than answers. Although
his Francis walks a fine line between redeemable and damned, he
confidently leaves this decision to the audience; a rare choice
among contemporary young actors who tend to shamelessly aim for the
emotional jugular.

An unwavering dedication to reality throughout keeps the script
tight and unique. And the nuances hidden within each interaction
demand attention and inspire much food for thought.

Ultimately, “The Son” is an intense meditation on redemption and
forgiveness that asks much of its audience but does not forget to
return the favor.

Rating: 4 stars





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