At only 85-minutes, My Son doesn’t waste much time with exposition or sub-plots. Instead, it dives right into a storyline involving the frantic actions of a father after his son’s disappearance. This makes it a lean and effective thriller, even if it simultaneously limits the room for creative revision of a familiar storyline or intelligent explanations for character actions. It combines the mystery-suspense elements from Tell No One with the emotional impact of the separated father/son storyline of Come What May. In the end, My Son definitely feels like a Christian Carion film, though not his best.
After his son goes missing from a camping trip, Julien (Guillaume Canet) returns to the small town in
Eastern France, where he once lived
with his ex-wife (Mélanie Laurent) and son before abandoning them for his
career. Feeling guilty for his absence, insinuating questions from the police,
and off-handed remarks by his wife’s new boyfriend, Julien decides to take
matters into his own hands. Even when his actions land him in trouble with the
police, Julien refuses to let up until he finds his son or the people
responsible for his disappearance.
As expected from a thriller/mystery of this sort, there are a few twists and red herrings along the way, but the film doesn’t make time for much more. The result is a film where a majority is spent watching Julien creeping around suspected properties, investigating without subtlety or a solid plan. Even as the suspense is raised near the end of the film, it shies away from any scenes of traditional action, and the violence remains primarily off-screen. This is in no way an exploitative film, even if there is an equally dismissive nature towards character motivation or narrative logic. What remains at the forefront is always the emotional impact, whether in moments of suspense or defeated sadness.
While the suspense is effective, the emotional effect would have been greater had the narrative taken a bit more time to develop Julien’s character. We find out bits and pieces about the job that has him abroad so often, but only enough to justify some of his power in carrying out his own investigation. Had more time been spent actually giving the audience reasons to care about Julien beyond the simple fact that he has a missing son, the emotional impact of the film would have been more effective.
The Blu-ray release is not entirely necessary, as this is not a particularly flashy film visually. The disc special features include a making-of featurette, as well as behind-the-scenes footage with Carion and Canet.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 4.5/10
Special Features: 4/10