‘My Son’ Review—A By-the-Numbers Mystery
Christian Carion co-writes and directs an English-language remake of his 2017 film, Mon garçon. My Son is a mystery thriller about Edmond Murray (James McAvoy), who visits his ex-wife, Joan (Claire Foy), to help find their missing son.
McAvoy is one of the most talented actors working today. He has never been known to shy away from a challenge, whether he’s playing a man with 24 different personalities in Split or doing extensive monologuing in last month’s Together.
His latest acting trial comes in this film as he improvises all of his dialogue. Only given plot points, McAvoy began filming every scene reacting to his situation in real-time. That sounds like a daunting task for an actor, but it was nothing McAvoy couldn’t pull off.
And he pulls it off quite well. Like the best actors of past and present, McAvoy has a way of letting dialogue sound natural instead of rehearsed and memorized. Perhaps the spontaneous nature of the film helps with that, but he never lets the fact that he’s improvising hamper his performance.
He is truly captivating in this role. McAvoy is throwing everything he can at this project, and while it may be easy to get caught up in the fact that everything he says is off-the-cuff, his work here is so alluring that you may even forget by the end of it.
Foy is also fantastic as his ex-wife, Joan. Everyone in the movie puts in excellent dramatic work, with McAvoy and Foy matching each other’s emotional levels. Their characters go to dark places, and the two sell every second of it.
Unfortunately, the movie may lose some in its familiarity. Movies about parents trying to find the truth about their kidnapped/missing children are rampant, whether we have Liam Neeson mowing down sex traffickers in Taken or Mel Gibson screaming on his cell phone in Ransom.
When films reuse concepts and premises, what makes it interesting is how the filmmaker puts a unique spin on it. Take Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching — another movie about a father whose child goes missing. That thriller takes place entirely on screens, and that made the film so much more engaging.
But this movie doesn’t have much going for it. Tonally, the film feels the most like Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, a missing-child film that goes into some very dark places with its characters. This movie is going for something similar but ultimately doesn’t offer a fresh take on the all-too-familiar premise.
The first ten minutes don’t quite hook the audience, barely setting up the premise in an exciting way. However, for the next hour, the film is primarily focused on its characters, and it can be pretty interesting to learn more about our protagonist and his past as he wasn’t always there in his son’s life.
Eventually, the movie can feel a bit one-note, simply going into generic territory as the characters are in the same situation for much of the film. But the movie takes a turn in its final act, almost becoming a different film entirely.
Our final act throws the characters somewhere new, and it doesn’t rely on thrilling blockbuster action. Instead, the last thirty minutes are filled with a lot of quiet, exciting tension that works well and is ultimately the best part of the film, despite its disposable villains.
While the film could have gone to more emotional places with Edmond and his son, the movie is ultimately watchable. Although the film is a by-the-numbers mystery that may not beg you to rewatch it any time soon, and it can feel like the improvisation aspect is simply a gimmick to get you to watch the film in the first place, it’s not a bad film at all.
Having seen the film, it’s pretty understandable why the film was dropped on Peacock with little marketing behind it. It’s not the most memorable thriller, but for those interested in McAvoy and Foy giving stand-out performances amid a mystery, it’s not one you’ll regret checking out.
Grade: ★★★☆☆ [6/10, C+]
My Son is now streaming on Peacock.