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Le Fils (The Son) | Review

Staring at the Son

Film digs deep into the torment and pain of the human consciousness.

The filmmakers behind the 1999 Palme D’or winning picture of Rosetta are finally back with another dramatically murky portrayal of humanity. The Dardenne brothers continue there ascension as important contemporary filmmakers with the raw, intimate, confining picture Le Fils (The Son). There film punches the viewer in the stomach-with a bleak drama with tone undercurrents that explore a bizarre relationship between a man and a boy that shows the hidden rage that can take over a life and destroy it.

Working as a teacher in a wood shop program for young pupils- Olivier‘s (Oliver Gourmet -Sur mes lèvres) curiosity level suddenly goes into over-drive. At first, the viewer gets the impression that he might be some kind of sexual predator as he becomes a little too interested in the new student-acting like an immature peeping-tom. There is this uneasiness in the character, the man with thick glasses and a receding hairline never comes close to cracking a smile-suggesting that something profound has sidetracked the life of the carpenter/teacher. After a first half where the viewer is only subjected to these weird obsessive tendencies,-the narrative unveils why he has this interest level in the youth and then reveals a two-way relationship that balances on a mentor and pupil type relationship with a sardonic twist.

This is one of those films that contains a subject matter that you can’t really categorize among the slue of potential dramas. There is a raw quality to this picture- the style of cinematography is invasive and intimate with the film’s subjects-the close up shots in the form of long takes gets the viewer into the character’s skin- the teacher is looked at in the same kind of way as the tough female protagonist in Rosetta, one scene that comes to mind is when the camera follows her routine of changing the bait from her fish trap contraption. Gourmet’s character does not speak much, but the lack of dialogue is made up for by his brilliant visceral facial expressive language.

I like how the subject matter is approached; the Dardennes create a spatial text that allows the viewer to latch onto the emotions of the characters, but in the same stroke the viewer may feel a little too “caged” by it. Le Fils is a gritty piece, and receives full marks from this jury member for its compassionate in your face look.

Viewed in Original French language with English subtitles.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric splits his time between his home base in Montreal, NYC, and is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. Top 3 from 2016: Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt), Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve), Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

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