It’s always exciting when films try to do new things and Christian Carion’s latest film, My Son, has a unique approach that makes it intriguing to watch. The film follows Edmond (James McAvoy), a man whose job takes him all over the globe which has in turn made him an absent father. When his son, Ethan (Max Wilson) is kidnapped, Edmond has to take matters into his own hands to locate Ethan and bring him home safely before it’s too late. It’s not the plot that makes this film intriguing, however, but the approach that Carion took by refusing to supply McAvoy with a script beyond the basic facts regarding his character. This means that McAvoy genuinely had no idea what was going to happen or how the film was going to unfold, adding a layer of genuine emotion to his character. The simplicity of the plot and limited setting helps to aid this to ensure that McAvoy can really delve into his characterisation without feeling overwhelmed by complexity.
The film is written and directed by Christian Carion, who is best known for his Oscar-nominated film, Joyeux Noël, My Son is an English-language remake of his 2017 Mon garçon which also incorporated the experimental aspects of having the lead character make discoveries of his own without having a script to rely on. The direction of the film is highly intense with some brilliant contrasts as Carion blends vast Highland landscapes with close-ups to provide that sense of entrapment and claustrophobia reflecting Edmond’s feelings. The script and story is fairly simple in terms of what happens to Ethan, but this serves in the film’s favour as it never feels overwhelming or overcomplicated as crime films often do. While this means that the film can delve into a predictable nature, the intensity of the direction keeps the audience gripped throughout.
Leading the film is James McAvoy as Edmond and arguably, the film relies on McAvoy’s performance and the conviction that he brings to the character. As ever, he is fantastic in the role and proves to be the perfect choice for Edmond as he is able to play a deeply flawed character that the audience roots for. Edmond is hard-working but neglectful of his family, to the point where his ex-wife has started a new life with her partner, Frank (Tom Cullen), while Edmond rarely visits to see Ethan. It’s a performance that hinders on this heartbreak that he doesn’t spend time with his son, but the love that he has for him knows no bounds. The climactic scene in which Edmond searches a large house for his son and has to kill or injure the kidnappers is deeply intense as the house serves as a claustrophobic labyrinth. While this performance may not show the range that his turn in Split did or be as well-known as his turn in the X-Men franchise, McAvoy demonstrates yet again his ability to play flawed characters that the audience will get behind with ease in a role that seems tailor-made for him.
Supporting McAvoy is the incredible Claire Foy who is best known for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown. Her performance as Joan couldn’t be further from her turn as the Queen as she is able to showcase even more versatility. Joan is a character who has been burdened with the duty of bringing up Ethan without Edmond’s help, while also having to be Edmond’s cheerleader when he doesn’t turn up for his son. Foy’s performance provides plenty of nuances and it’s a shame that her character isn’t in the film even more. She perfectly brings all of Joan’s frustrations to the surface in a performance that is powerful and works well against McAvoy’s temperamental Edmond.
Laurent Perez del Mar’s score perfectly undercuts the film and draws out the thriller elements. Just as the film provides many twists and turns, the score is full of swooping strings and drawn-out notes that highlight Edmond’s frustration and confusion. The score feels as though it is in tune with Edmond and his emotions, becoming more intense as the film goes on. However, del Mar knows when to create subtlety such as the scene in which Edmond is sneaking around the lodge to say Ethan from the kidnappers. This contrast between loud, dramatic strings and quieter moments provides an unpredictability to the film.
My Son may not have the most complex plot and story, but the strong leading characters and intense direction make this a thrilling watch, even if it does lose a bit of momentum in its closing scenes. McAvoy is brilliant to watch, as always, and it’s great to see him in a film that relies as heavily on his performance as we are able to feel his character’s array of emotions as he figures out what has happened to Ethan. My Son should be commended for its unconventional approach to filming and hopefully, this will inspire even more creative experiments in the filming process.
What did you think of My Son? Let me know in the comments below!
My Son is available to view on Amazon Prime!