MY SON is Cohen Media Group’s gripping mystery-thriller starring French favorites Guillaume Canet (writer/director/co-star of arthouse hit Tell No One) and Mélanie Laurent (Beginners, Inglourious Basterds) as a divorced couple whose 7 year old son is kidnapped from a summer camp in the Alps foothills.
Julien (Canet), a recently divorced workaholic always on the move and neglectful of his family, re-connects with ex-wife Marie (Laurent) when she tells him their young son has disappeared. He immediately travels to the rustic area where Marie now lives with her new partner Grégoire (Olivier de Benoist). Julien, frustrated by a less than aggressive police investigation, fueled by guilt at having neglected Marie and their child and jealous and suspicious of the unprepossessing Grégoire, takes on the search himself. On a road trip of desperation, he visits places like the boy’s camp and other locales that figure. He also pores through home movies for clues. As Julien unravels the mystery of his son’s whereabouts, efforts and mileage pay off. But his paranoia and impulsive behavior are unwelcome if not fatal road bumps.
Really great performances all around, especially Laurent’s and most notably from Canet (a career best?) maybe because filmmaker Carion disclosed little of the unfolding plot to his star over a remarkably tight six day production shoot, reminding that such economy (cf. Detour, Elevator to the Gallows) can equate to heightened tension and emotions.
Carion takes full advantage of the fine rustic locations whose prettiness never gets in the way of the pervasive suspense.
DP Eric Dumont’s wonderful camerawork, whether road scenes shot from inside the car, the action shots or many close-ups conveying deep feelings at play, mixes both intimate and fluid as it exploits to great effect the power of film to go deep or bedazzle kinetically.
The taut plot thread of the hero’s search for his missing child never sags, even with many personal detours, including home movie clips, into paranoia, jealousies, impulsive acts and past regrets.
While overall a satisfying whodunnit, the whodidit may not please those diehard mystery/suspense fans insistent on big payoff “aha”s.