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Review: 'My Son' (2022) Dir. Christian Carion

James McAvoy, Claire Foy, Gary Lewis and Tom Cullen


French director Christian Carion helms a remake of his own 2017 French film 'Mon garçon', as mystery thriller set in the Scottish Highlands focused on every parents nightmare...

International oil worker Edmond Murray (McAvoy) is brought back to the Scottish Highlands to meet his ex-wife Joan (Foy) when their young son goes missing from a loch-side camping trip.

With little leads to go on, all Edmond can do is try and adjust to the new way of life Joan and her new partner Frank (Cullen) have established, and bury his personal feelings and guilt to help with the search as best he can.

Police Inspector Roy (Lewis) leads the investigation, and it's evident there is confusion and clouded judgement between both Edmond and Joan that proves useless in the search for their boy as time ticks quickly slips away...

We are treated to an opening few minutes that wouldn't look out of place for a Daniel Craig James Bond film; framing across the gorgeous and eerie Scottish Highlands accompanied by gentle if not sinister score from Laurent Perez del Mar. The scale is massive already, and with the context of the story revolving around a missing child, we already feel dwarfed by the location around us with the autumnal colours, the mist creeping along the horizon and damp dew on the ground.

A young boy has gone missing. In the early hours of the morning we see police tents erected by a loch, cars blocking off the access roads, patrolmen on duty and police divers in action. There is nothing but immediate concern, desperation and uncertainty. Brits James McAvoy and Claire Foy play the parents, currently separated but brought together by the tragedy of a missing child in such dangerous locations and bleak surroundings. The narrative of course revolves around McAvoy and Foy are parents, two reliable and acclaimed actors of their generation and able to be fully convincing in their roles with no sheen to their ordinary roles.

What is fascinating is that McAvoy is improvising everything - with no script, he reacts as he feels he would as a father. The uncertainty journey is seen and experienced with him, as natural as it could.

McAvoy takes the real journey (not that you would know as a viewer without reading about it) as he leads a fully improvised role as father Edmond. The cast around him had scripts and direction, but McAvoy went in blind for fully immersive reactions, responses and emotions in the course of searching for a missing child. The fact McAvoy is as natural, convincing and heartfelt as ever simply is testament to his skill as an actor. There's no direction on how to act to whatever he is presented with, and so it's all processed and often unpredictable, with new direction and trajectory in each moment that passes.

His dialogue isn't stilted and feels fresh; it's rough around the edges with no cues from others. With occasional interruptions and trailing off in thought, it all blends to the most natural feel possible but with no loss in focus or intensity. Kudos also to the supporting players around him, convincing in their roles and again feeling as natural as ever surrounding the circumstances.

Foy has a fire and power to her as a distraught mother dealing with losing her son, but also juggling the emotional upheaval of her ex-husband and new boyfriend at the same time, each vying to make their case heard. While this films rests on the shoulders of McAvoy due to his improvising, it's a team effort from a skilled cast and crew who still drive the main story forward.

Eric Dumont's cinematography should be celebrated in equal measure to highlight both his skill in framing the beautiful surroundings and making them feel vast, but also in what natural magnificence Scotland presents as a location. This alone is worth a watch.

It's a dramatic character study that fails to maintain a steady and engrossing pace, but it's not without a level of far reaching conspiracy and deception weaving its way into the story. A few new leads pop up that affects the investigation, be them somewhat undercooked, and help to change the course of the story. The thrills aren't strong enough to retain a great sense or urgency, and somehow it loses the urgency midway through. At least until the final act when everything comes together for a rather sinister but very drawn-out climax that just feels it's there to throw as many shocks at McAvoy to react to as possible.

Feeling more like a 2-part TV mystery thriller than feature film, 'My Son' still boasts a gorgeously chilling Scottish setting and a strong lead performance by McAvoy.

'My Son' is a co-production between STXfilms, MadRiver Pictures, Sixteen Films, Une Hirondelle and Wild Bunch International

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