The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2021 Review - SON | The Movie Waffler

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Dublin International Film Festival 2021 Review - SON

son review
When her son is stricken by a mysterious condition, a young mother believes the cult she once fled from has caught up with her.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ivan Kavanagh

Starring: Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnston, Blaine Maye

son poster

Writer/director Ivan Kavanagh's Son belongs to the tradition of supernatural thrillers in which a parent takes to the road with a child gifted with paranormal powers – think the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter, or more recently, Jeff Nichols' Midnight Special. The difference here is that it seems as though the child in question may very well pose a significant threat to the world. No mother wants to believe such a thing, which is why Laura (Andi Matichak) takes flight with her eight-year-old son David (Luke David Blumm).

son review

As detailed in a prologue that riffs on the opening of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, a teenage Laura escapes from a cult while pregnant with David. Eight years later, she seems to have made a life for herself and her boy. She's got a comfortable suburban home, a job as a pre-school teacher, and is studying to better herself with evening classes.


One night Laura hears noises coming from David's bedroom. Opening his door, she is shocked to find a large group of people gathered around the boy's bed. Laura runs to a neighbour for help, but when the police arrive they can't find any signs of forced entry. Just as Laura is beginning to question her sanity, David begins spasming and vomiting blood. Rushed to hospital, David is examined by doctors who are left baffled by his condition. After a few days, David seems to make a miracle recovery, only for the mysterious condition to strike him once more.

son review

Paranoid that the doctors are somehow linked to the cult she fled, Laura snatches David from his bed and hides him with a neighbour. But when she finds David feeding on the innards of said neighbour, Laura makes the gory scene look like the work of the cult, daubing the cryptic message "He is coming", along with a runic symbol, on the wall in the victim's blood. The two hit the road in search of answers to David's ailment, pursued by a police detective, Paul (Emile Hirsch), who has taken a personal shine to Laura.


Kavanagh's script is clouded in ambiguity regarding Laura's sanity, her son's condition, and whether the cult she believes she fled from ever actually existed. Aside from the people glimpsed in David's bedroom, we're never given any evidence of the cult's existence. They certainly don’t seem to be chasing her, leaving Laura pursued only by Paul, who poses no threat. As such, there's practically no chase in this chase thriller, and few thrills either. Instead what we get is a dreary cousin of Neil Jordan's vampire tale Byzantium, as a mother attempts to protect her vampiric offspring while indulging their unique dietary requirements. The movie takes itself very, very seriously, and with so much of its drama revolving around childhood trauma, it's an often unpleasant experience.

son review

It's all very well put together, with Kavanagh and cinematographer Piers McGrail drawing on '80s genre cinema with their neon-tinged colour scheme, and Matichak gets the chance to show her acting chops in a far meatier role than that afforded her as the forgettable heroine of the recent Halloween reboot. But it all feels too familiar. We've seen this sort of thing before, just not played out in such dour fashion.

Son
 played online at the Dublin International Film Festival.



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