When a child is missing and presumed kidnapped, any parent can turn into Liam Neeson in Taken, even a French journalist. Frankly, it is not such a dramatic transformation in the case of Julien Perrin. He has a rather murky backstory and a hair-trigger temper. Perrin will do whatever it takes to find his seven-year-old boy Mathys, regardless of consequences, throughout Christian Carion’s lean French thriller My Son, which opens tomorrow in New York.
As usual, Perrin was on assignment when Mathys disappeared, but he made haste to the mountainous village when his ex-wife Marie Blanchard called. He tries to be supportive, but things are weird between them. Perrin probably still has some residual affection for her, but her new partner, Gregoire Rochas is a different story entirely. The concerned father takes an instant disliking to Rochas and soon starts to suspect he could be complicit in Mathys’ disappearance (based mainly on instinct rather than evidence).
Although everyone wants Perrin to settle down, he continues to pursue his maverick investigation, like a bull in a china shop. There will indeed be some big third act twists and revelation, but My Son is more about the hunt than unmasking the villains. Regardless, Carion and co-screenwriter Laure Irrmann spring a decidedly sinister conclusion to the film.
Guillaume Canet really seethes and fumes as Perrin. It is a viscerally powerful performance that so dominates the film, it feels like a solo show (like Tom Hardy in Locke), even though there are other actors present. Arguably, Canet’s work also vindicates the method school of acting, due to Carion’s unusual strategy. Instead of supply notes and backstory, Carion withheld all information from Canet, including the script, allowing him to experience each twist and turn in real time.
Melanie Laurent does a nice enough job as Blanchard, but she just cannot compare to Canet. On the other hand, Olivier de Benoist is all kinds of creepy and distasteful as the suspicious Rochas. We really cannot blame Perrin if he leaps to conclusions.
This is a wiry, stripped down film that nicely maintains the brooding French thriller tradition. Carion’s unconventional method of directing Canet has been a good publicity hook for the film, but it never comes across as gimmicky to viewers. Highly recommended for fans of French cinema and edgy thrillers, My Son opens tomorrow (5/10) in New York, at the Quad Cinema.