“Driving in the heart of the Highlands, Edmond Murray receives a call from his ex-wife, in tears. Their 7-year-old son went missing from a campsite. Soon it becomes clear that the child was kidnapped and the parents give way to despair.”
Director: Christian Carion
Writers: Christian Carion, Laure Irrmann
Staring:Claire Foy, James McAvoy
Where To Watch: Peacock
Release Date: September 15, 2021
My Son is a perfectly average and acceptable thriller. The movie serves its purpose as an entertainment vessel with recognizable actors. If you are looking for anything more the adequate than such, then My Son will leave a small sense of disappointment in your gut.
The story centers around a missing seven-year-old who is the son of divorcees Edmond Murray (James McAvoy) and Joan Richmond (Claire Foy). This character driven piece takes place in the Highlands and uses the rainy exterior as a depressing mood setter. Where the movie begins to dip in quality is when the story dives from a normal kidnapping to one that maybe includes international cover-ups and shady policework.
By the end of story it is all up to Murray to try and rescue his son. He is told not to trust anyone and so My Son turns into a tale of how a depressed and disappointing father will do everything to save and protect his son.
Starting off with the best part of My Son; the landscape and scenes of the movie are incredibly beautiful. While I think that director and writer Christian Carion may have struggled in terms of staging the tense, crawling, sneaking around sequences, there is no denying that he dominated the aesthetic look of his story. The long and winding roads and the foliage make me want to rent out an Air BnB in the Highlands.
This is why I like writing and researching things. I just found out that Carion made a French version of this movie called Mon Garçon in 2017. He remade his own movie with American actors and stars. If you want to check out the trailer for the French version, check this out.
OH, and Mon Garçon stars Mélanie Laurent who was Shosanna in Inglorious Basters (2009)?? Sign me up! Adding this to the watch list!
Okay, back to the 2021 Americanized version of My Son.
I am sure that part of the appeal for Carion to remake this movie for Peacock was that he could get recognizable stars like James McAvoy and Claire Foy. Unfortunately, the performances that both give are not nearly as strong as they need to be to carry My Son above mediocrity.
Touching on McAvoy first. The two-time BAFTA award nominated actor plays the part of distressed dad very well in the quiet moments but struggled in the louder more abrasive scenes. For example, when Edward Murray is talking with Inspector Roy (Gary Lewis) or going over the old videos of his son in isolation, I believe the exasperation and sadness he feels. There is an angry sadness that is building, but int he moments when that anger is manifested in violence, it doesn’t feel earned. The torturing of some bad men and violence he submits to is a bit rushed. This is not a fair comparison, but it is not like Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013) when Hugh Jackman’s performance was easily fucking good enough to make any over-the-top daddy issues palatable.
Claire Foy…I mean we forget that she is in this movie! Some can say that it’s a good thing because she disappears into the role. I’d argue it’s because she is not given a lot to do and she doesn’t get the chance to make a mark. Most people probably now Foy from The Crown. I was introduced to her in First Man (2018) where she was great. I even didn’t hate her as Lisbeth Salander in the overall disappointing The Girl In The Spider’s Web (2018). However, in My Son, her motherly grief is shoved too far off screen. It is placed on the back burner for the determined absentee father story arc. I wanted more of Joan Richmond.
I mentioned in the forefront how My Son gets dragged down near the end. The end begins when the story introduces the idea of international conspiracy regarding Edmond Murray’s job in the oil industry and how London is taking over the investigation. These variables in the story never end of meaning anything. It gives permission for Edmond to act upon his own impulses, but did he really need that unlocked if he was the desperate to find his child?
Another story arc that doesn’t get full vetting is Joan’s new boyfriend. Edmond meets this new man the night after arriving at the site of kidnapping and there is an immediate sense of unease. Frank does not seem to show the lightest inclination of concern regarding Ethan’s disappearance. Frank shows Edmond plans for a new home he was going to build Joan, Ethan and himself but while discussing the blueprints he never even mentions a room for the young boy.
The attack that Edmond carries out on Frank stems from frustration, anger and fear. Those emotions are not just a side effect of his son missing, but also the inner demons that Edmond is carrying around. The frustration of losing his family to a new man. The anger at himself for being a bad father and the fear of losing his son and losing his importance to Joan and Ethan.
Since there is much intertwined with this season from a character building standpoint, I would have liked to see more of a resolution put to Frank’s importance. After the scene between the pair of fatherly figures, Frank is never seen again. He is only mentioned and is proven to have given Valium to Joan to help her cope with tragedy. Frank, confirmed a creepy guy, but we don’t get everything from him that we can.
One last testament to how this movie maybe deserves a higher grade than I am giving it stems from the way Carion made the movie. As in the original 2017 movie, McAvoy did not know the script or have any written lines for himself. Everything that McAvoy did in this movie was adlibbed and genuine response to what the fellow actors were saying to him on set. It is meant to show the authentic shock a parent would have from their child being captured.
Looking back on the scenes of My Son with this knowledge, it speaks to why the finale of the movie was not earned as fully as it could have been. McAvoy himself didn’t know exactly where his character was going and what his final end game was. If you are a professional actor, you are able to take a script and the dialogue your character delivers and build a plan of attack on how you want to get the most out of your part’s story. McAvoy literally didn’t have a chance to do this.
My Son is a perfectly adequate thriller that gives the audience a chance to either zone out while watching or zone out from the world. It has merits, but it’s inconsistency triggers a “meh” ending. You won’t be asking any questions about the movie itself, only how much it’d be to visit the Highlands and go on vacation there.
STANKO RATING: C (2.5/5 Stars)
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