The Son (Sebastián Schindel, 2019)
Daddy Knows Best
According to some studies, babies will be smarter and more sensitive if they listen to Mozart during pregnancy, but my mother listened to Arvo Pärt instead and, look at me now, unable to understand a simple Netflix thriller and to write a proper review.
Nobody truly knows what’s best for your child, especially when there’s so much contradictory research going around, but nobody in The Son really knows what’s best for theirs. On one hand, mom Sigrid refuses any medical attention because she’s a biologist (okay?) and thinks she's more qualified than any Third World doctor and, on the other, dad Lorenzo, an ex-alcoholic who hardly sees his daughters from a previous marriage, behaves so erratically that, of course, no one believes his version of the story.
The Son is a middle-of-the-road Argentinean movie that works better as a study about toxic parenthood than as a thriller. By only following Lorenzo’s point of view, there’s no sign of ambiguity in terms of who’s actually mad and, therefore, the mystery becomes predictable right from the start.
Whether it’s an overprotective mother who might suffer from Munchausen syndrome or might experiment with her baby, or a father whose bursts of violence make him look like the culprit, the main victim in these cases is always the child.
Dear writers/filmmakers: open endings hardly work. They don’t make your movie look smart. The use-your-imagination excuse is not convincing because it feels that you didn’t use yours. I’m not asking for something like Psycho's exposition-heavy resolution, but take a risk, goddamn it, go for broke, your movie is already average. This type of genre films need a better punch to make an impact and this kind of open endings make things worse, especially with a story that gives more plot holes than clues.
The idea that the baby is some kind of monster or that mom is keeping their baby from growing up with her weird experiments are accurate and disturbing hypothesis, but the movie never manages to be truly upsetting as it doesn’t develop any theory at all. Open ending sometimes are just wasted opportunities.
When Sigrid gives birth, she screams, moans and shrieks, but Schindel doesn’t show anything, making the scene the most intense moment of the whole film.
Parents who agree that having a kid is closer to a horror movie.
GOOD COMPANION PIECES
The Son would somehow work as a Rosemary’s Baby revision from the father’s perspective, with the difference (and quite important one) that dad didn’t sell his soul to the devil.
Angelina Jolie did it before (and better) in Changeling (2008) where she also couldn’t recognise her own child and went straight to a psychiatric ward.
Regina Lamm, as Sigrid’s matron, is always in the background and hardly utters a word, but she adds a strange uneasiness to the film.