Talk about literally embracing failure. One of the worst failures imaginable.
Two films that both have previously won Cannes Film Festival awards (which started yesterday) about love and redemption of the most extreme form. A parent’s love. A child’s death. And forgiveness from one for the other. Two of the most emotionally engrossing films I have watched in a long time.
I guess I should state *spoiler alert” at this point because “Le Fils” is so simple in its premise and plot that saying anything about it pretty much gives it all away. Yes, there are a few reveals that slowly get peeled away, but like the hero Olivier breaking into the house and lying in Francis’ bed, Director Jean-Pierre Dadenne puts us as much into the heart and skin of Olivier as is imaginable. His unwavering focus of the camera on Olivier’s every breath. The tight focus on the sweat of his neck and the emotional contortion behind his thick glasses. Often I get a bit weary of the French filmmakers’ penchant for the self-absorbed lingering shot, but in this case it worked for me.
The film is also nicely allegorical. One of my pet peeves are over-oblique allusions, but obvious ones can be clumsy and pedantic. The film’s Christ references are as subtle in their portrayal as they are explicit in their inclusion. Of source, the title itself – ‘The Son’ – pretty much starts it off. The hero’s occupation is not just a ‘carpenter’, but a ‘teacher’ of carpentry. But, most striking are the two scenes where the actors literally bear the cross carrying large beams. One of the most power messages of embracing failure every preached is Jesus’ message of love…”Love thy enemy” (Matthew 5:44).
The film parallels another Cannes award winner “We Need To Speak About Kevin”. Curiously, while the depictions of the focal character, “the son” in are polar opposites, the films have many parallels. Chief of which is the question viewer asks, ‘How could that parent possibly love that child?’ The riveting portrayal of what the parent is feeling is what struck me most about both these works.
I would suggest that if you watch both, watch ‘Kevin’ first and then ‘The Son’ as the latter is quite a bit more uplifting.
In each, I felt a riveting sense of connection with the protagonists. A connection as powerful as the stirring embrace of failure in the final scenes.