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My Son (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

My Son

MY SON (MON GARCON) (2017)

Starring Guillaume Canet, Melanie Laurent, Olivier de Benoist, Antoine Hamel, Mohamed Brikat, Lino Papa, Marc Robert, Pierre Langlois, Tristan Pagès, Christophe Rossignon, Pierre Desmaret, Ronnie Avenel, Dominique Plaideau and the voice of Vanessa Desmaret.

Screenplay by Christian Carion and Laure Irrmann.

Directed by Christian Carion.

Distributed by Cohen Media Group. 85 minutes. Not Rated.

My Son is a pretty stark reminder of the differences between American cinema and that of the French. If My Son were an American film, it would probably end up something like Taken – the middle-aged father of a kidnapped child with “special skills” casually beating down a whole phalanx of underworld toughs in a determined rage to save his child.

Well, as My Son remembers, most of us don’t have “special skills.” We don’t know martial arts and how to build a bomb with just a rag and a bottle. We would be rather lost as to what to do in this situation. We’d have the unquenchable desire to move heaven and earth to find our kid and make sure he is safe – but would we be able to do it?

My Son brings a realism to the situation that similar American blockbusters would just plow through. This isn’t an extraordinary man, it’s just a normal guy who has been put into an extraordinarily bad position.

Of course, he will do his absolute to get his boy home. But will his best be good enough? This is not a world that he knows or understands. He has no particular training for this, nor an understanding of this world. In fact, at least one or two of the clues he follows in his quest here appear to be complete coincidences, facts he just stumbles upon.

Yet, it is just this man’s unfitness for this job that makes the movie as interesting as it becomes.

Which is important, because with the exception of brief shots of several supporting characters, Julien (Guillaume Canet) is the only person on camera for much of the film. His ex, Marie – played with desperation by the luminous Melanie Laurent – has the next most important role, and yet even she disappears for big chunks of the movie.

We meet Julien as he is driving, having gotten a voicemail from his ex-wife that their son has disappeared from a sleepaway camp he was attending. Julien, who is living in a different town, rushes to help find the boy. He quickly becomes frustrated by the apparent laissez-faire attitude of the gendarmes, as well as Marie’s galootish new boyfriend who seems more interested in talking about his future with Marie than he is finding out what is happening to her son in the present.

Julien blows a gasket, eventually beating up the boyfriend and running afoul of the police, who insist that he stay out of the investigation. Even Marie, who still loves him in her way and knows he’s just trying desperately to save their son, becomes frustrated by him.

However, he refuses to just sit on the sidelines, and decides to start his own investigation, traversing the countryside following clues – some important and some a bit obscure. A not particularly physical man – unarmed and alone – he goes into dangerous situations with no real plan or backup. He does not share his information with the police – or with anyone – he just keeps looking.

The further he gets into his investigation, the more desperate he becomes. One particular scene – where he tortures one of the criminals in a garage – leads you to worry that he may be turning out to be just as bad as the criminals. Just because what he is doing has a justification does not necessarily make it right.

My Son is a tense, slow-burn mystery that is sort of the polar opposite of the normal action thriller. Not every story has a superhero. Sometimes they are more interesting just because they don’t.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 24, 2019.

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