Movie reviews: 'The Son' and more – CTV News

Zen McGrath, Hugh Jackman, and Laura Dern seen in this image from ‘The Son’. (Sony Pictures Classics)
“The Son,” director Florian Zeller’s follow-up to the Oscar winning “The Father,” is the story of a fractured family and a son struggling with mental illness.
The drama, adapted for the screen by Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s stage play, involves Peter (Hugh Jackman), a high-flying New York City lawyer with political aspirations. He is the father of 17-year-old Nicholas (Zen McGrath) and ex-husband of Kate (Laura Dern), but has rebooted his life, marrying Beth (Vanessa Kirby), a much younger woman who is the mother to their baby, Theo. Peter has a new baby and a new life that doesn’t leave much room for his older son.
When Nicolas begins skipping school, acting out and cutting himself as a way to channel his pain, Kate asks if Peter can step up and give the boy some guidance and a place to stay. “He needs you Peter,” she says. “You can’t abandon him.”
Life is weighing Nicholas down. “I can’t deal with any of it,” he says. “I want something to change, but I don’t know what.”
With Nicolas in the spare room, Peter attempts to “fix” him, searching for an explanation for his son’s behaviour, trying to be a better father to the teen than his own father, played by Anthony Hopkins, was to him. An unapologetically bad father, Hopkins snarls, “Your daddy wasn’t good to you or your mama. Who cares? Get over it.”
“The Son” is the story of intergenerational trauma, of the sins of a father (Hopkins is despicable in a fiery cameo) being visited upon his son and grandson, and a child’s cry for help.
Compassion abounds in “The Son,” and Jackman astounds with work that is tinged with vulnerability, tragedy and guilt, but the script offers few surprises. Zeller telegraphs the film’s biggest moments, as if he doesn’t trust the audience to follow along. Those early revelations mute the story’s emotional power, despite the fine, compassionate performances.
There are compelling moments in “The Son.” A showdown between Peter and Nicholas packs emotional heft, and Jackman’s struggle to understand his son’s acute depression is tempered with equal parts empathy and frustration.
Jackman delivers a remarkable and authentic portrait of a desperate father in a well-intentioned film, that, by and large, feels manipulative by comparison.
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Storm Reid, left, and and Megan Sure in a scene from “Missing.” (Temma Hankin/Screen Gems-Sony Pictures via AP)
In “Missing,” a new high tech missing person thriller now playing in theatres, the main character turns to her computer server when the police fail to protect and serve.
A sorta-kinda sequel to the 2018 high-tech missing person movie “Searching” starring John Cho, “Missing” tells its story through a series of browser windows, on a screen or through a computer, security or surveillance camera.
Storm Reid is June Allen, a typical Los Angeles teen tethered to her phone, screens and social media. When her mother Grace (Nia Long) and newish boyfriend (Ken Leung) jet off for some alone time in Colombia, June is put in charge. But just because Grace will be basking in the sun almost 4000 kilometers away, doesn’t mean she won’t be keeping a digital eye on her daughter. “Keep your location on the entire time I’m away,” she instructs the teen.
As soon as the plane lifts off June looks up articles on-line like “How to Throw a Rager… On a Budget” like any teenager left in charge would do, but when Grace goes incommunicado, June becomes concerned. Calls to her mother’s hotel don’t provide any comfort.
“I’m calling about a guest you had,” she says. “Does anyone speak English?”
“I’m sorry,” comes the reply.
With no information forthcoming she contacts the F.B.I. who inform her they have no jurisdiction to investigate in Columbia. “The best thing you can do is wait by your phone,” says Agent Park (Daniel Henney).
But why should June wait by the phone when she has an arsenal of the latest technology at her fingertips? Doing a deep dive, she looks for clues as a kind of digital Dick Tracy, and finds out more about her mother’s past than she bargained for.
“Missing” is almost as anxiety inducing as the three dots that come up when you’re waiting for someone to text you back.
Because this is a technological thriller, the usual visual genre tricks don’t apply. There are no darkly lit alley ways, shadowy corners or smoke-shrouded backrooms.
Instead, the screen is filled with dialogue boxes, blown-out YouTube videos, FaceTime pop-ups and Google search bars. The information gathering aspect of the story may look like something that would confuse and confound Philip Marlowe, but the procedural is the same as other, classic Private Eye movies. One bit of information leads to another, and June pieces the mystery together with the panache of a seasoned detective.
There are one or two obvious plot holes that defy logic, but mostly the techno presentation conveys both the backstory and the procedural aspects of the plot in an effective and inventive way.
Providing the all-important human connection is Reid, who, as June, is a resourceful heroine who takes matters into her own hand. Best known as Rue’s younger sister on the HBO drama series “Euphoria,” she brings a daughter’s concern to the tale that warms up the movie’s overwhelming, cool techno vibe.
Whether the screenshot style of “Missing” will one day be regarded with the same side eye as found footage movies are today remains to be seen, but in the here and now, it is an exciting format, at once familiar and yet completely new.
This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Bill Nighy in a scene from “Living.” (Jamie D. Ramsay/Sony Pictures Classics via AP)
A reimagining of “Ikiru,” the 1952 film Roger Ebert called Akira Kurosawa’s greatest movie, “Living” transplants the action from Tokyo to London, but maintains the thoughtful emotionalism that earned the original accolades.
Bill Nighy plays Mr. Williams, a post-World War II veteran bureaucrat in the county Public Works department, who leads a life of quiet desperation. Widowed, and living with his son and daughter-in-law, Michael (Barney Fishwick) and Fiona (Patsy Ferran), his life has a “Groundhog Day” regularity.
From the train commute and boring paper shuffling at work, to the long nights in the company of his disinterested son and his wife, he is sleepwalking through a rinse and repeat rut. One of his employees,Miss Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood), has even nicknamed him Mr. Zombie.
“You need to live a little,” he’s told. “I don’t know how,” comes the reply.
But when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, given just months to live, he breaks free of the shackles of his former life to seize each and every day.
Despite his quiet, internalized performance, Nighy is the center of attention. Mr. Williams is buttoned-down and repressed, but as he lets the inner light shine, a long-lost warmth emerges. Whether he’s singing a sentimental song in a pub or teaching Miss. Harris how to use an arcade game, Nighy blossoms. He never allows grief to enter the picture, instead he’s introspective, looking back at a life left unfulfilled.
“It’s a small wonder,” he says, “I didn’t notice what I was becoming.”
It’s a heartbreaking performance, but one that bristles with life the closer Mr. Williams comes to death.
“Living” is a restrained movie, “A Christmas Carol” of a sort about a man visited by two spirits, in this case a very real novelist (Tom Burke) and Miss. Harris, who teach him to embrace whatever time he has left on earth. With beautiful mid-century period details, director Oliver Hermanus tells a simple story of regret, sadness and a last attempt at doing something meaningfu. 
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