My Son: "It’s not up to you to investigate"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Christian Carion directs a rough and ready thriller, which sees Guillaume Canet fully embracing a stylistic exercise
A dark, abrupt and incredibly physical world. With his new feature film, My Son [+see also:
film profile], released today in French cinemas by Diaphana, Christian Carion delves into a genre film with a darkness that is altogether different from his films to date (The Girl From Paris, Merry Christmas [+see also:
interview: Christian Carion
interview: Christophe Rossignon
film profile], The Farewell Case [+see also:
film profile], Come What May [+see also:
Based on the sudden disappearance of a son and its impact on a father who is tormented by the guilt of having abandoned his family some years prior, the plot (a screenplay written by the director along with Laura Irmann) develops in two stages, with the first focusing on psychological distress, and the second focusing on a torturous and violent investigation. Guillaume Canet is offered a strong leading role, which he captures with incredible talent thanks to the filmmaker’s decision to put him under the same conditions as his character, forcing him to stumble forwards blindly. During the filming process the actor was kept in the dark about the main plot points (unlike his team mates playing the game) and was forced to discover the various elements of the narrative puzzle in real time (filming lasted for six days). A stylistic exercise that begins with a panic-stricken phone call ("I don’t know whether you’re in France or not, Julien. Call me"), followed by shots of a man on a train, and then in a car, driving along a winding and oppressive road at the bottom of a deep valley, surrounded by mountains –thus setting the tone of the film.
The next day, on 18 November 2016, the radio plays an alert regarding the kidnapping of a seven-year-old boy, Mathys, who has disappeared during a school trip wearing grey pyjamas and carrying his sleeping bag. Having arrived the day before, Julian has already felt the distress of his ex-wife, Marie (Mélanie Laurent), and has been interrogated by the police with “intimate and disturbing” questions about his divorce, his previous relationship and his work (construction work in Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mexico and Iran). However, Julien is tripped up after he suspects and beats up his wife’s new partner (Olivier de Benoist). Confronted with the image of a father who has abandoned his son ("you weren’t there for so many years," "you don’t know anything about Mathys’ life," "we didn’t get divorced, you just disappeared,") Julien must follow a trail that he discovers while looking at videos on Marie’s pocket camera. And just like an Indian on the path to war, there’s no time for feelings…
Skilfully playing with the mystery that surrounds Julien’s character and the rhythm created by the urgency of the situation ("you know what they say when a child has been missing for more than two days: he’s dead") without leaving behind the beauty of the natural setting of Vercors, with intense camera-work constantly following on the heels of Eric Dumont, and a soundtrack composed by Laurent Perez del Mar, My Son progresses like a beating drum, delivering a feeling of suspense that is fed by a plot that at times feels somewhat prearranged. The film soon slips into violence that is occasionally reminiscent of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners – potentially open for discussion – but that also makes up an integral part of what the film does best: telling the story of a brutal journey into the most profound of dangers, incarnated by obscure and evil forces, which only serves to mirror the subconscious of the main character, a man who only steps back into his paternal shoes after the disappearance of his son, who he must track down at all costs so that he can look him in the eyes once more.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.