Olivier - meticulous, careful, even-handed - teaches
carpentry at a vocational school in Liège. He''s asked to
take on Francis, 16, a new student. He declines the
request then begins to watch, even spy on, the new lad.
Olivier knows something. Later that day, he''s visited by
Magali, his ex-wife, who tells him that she''s remarrying
and is pregnant. Olivier seems to follow instinctive
responses: "why today?" he demands of Magali; he
continues to follow Francis; he changes his mind about
enrolling the youth. What''s the history between the two?
After that becomes clear, what is it Olivier will do? Is
this precise and measured carpenter in control of
One from the heart
26 August 2006 | by Mahlerfan (United Kingdom)
The Son is one of the profoundest films that you will
ever see, and yet, paradoxically, also one of the
simplest. In this way, it resembles a biblical parable.
Adding to its simplicity is the fact that it is
photographed entirely with a hand-held camera, so don''t
expect any breathtaking vistas of heartbreaking sunsets.
In fact, for a considerable chunk of its running time we
are offered little more to look at than the back of a
man''s head; but after we have been doing this for a
while, something extraordinary begins to happen: we find
that we can see directly into his soul.
The man is a carpenter named Olivier (played by the
wonderful Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet). He isn''t
pretty to look at, he isn''t particularly heroic, he has
little sense of humour and his manner is frequently
terse, but just watch what he does in the quiet moments!
Watch how he tells you everything you need to know with
just his body language and his eyes.
In one of the film''s many quiet moments, his ex-wife
studies him with tangible tenderness, and we can''t help
but be moved by their fragile intimacy. But she is
ultimately unable to empathize with him. Can you? Will
you? For my own part, I found Olivier to be the most
inspirational character in all of cinema, and I wish -
oh, how I wish! - that I could be just like him.
Olivier''s story, which is essentially about loneliness
and forgiveness, develops s-l-o-w-l-y in order to help
us better make sense of the carpenter and his world. The
dialogue is as banal and as functional as it would be in
everyday life, and, to add to the sense of reality, the
soundtrack contains no music at all, so the dramatic
moments aren''t heightened or emphasized with soaring
strings or a hard rock beat. We are asked merely to
observe, to listen and learn, and we end up thinking for
ourselves in the process.
How profound is The Son really? Well, long after the end
credits have rolled, you will probably find yourself
haunted by the film and asking serious questions of
yourself. You might also come to discover that the story
is actually about three sons and not one, but that will
all depend upon how you view the universe.
The Son is a transcendental experience and one of my
very favourite films. This is one for the ages and one
from the heart.