Published Sep 10, 2009Produced as it is by David Lynch's Absurda Films and helmed by Werner Herzog, one might expect this film to bear the fruits of such an epic creative partnership — something akin to the art house equivalent of the more enjoyable Spielberg/Lucas outings. No such luck.
Starring a twitchy, brooding Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) as a mama's boy driven mad, My Son is so obviously beholden to the trademark tropes of both Herzog and Lynch that it plays out as a 90-minute "what if?" scenario. Loosely based on a true story (as so many of Herzog's films are) of a San Diego man who, inspired by the Greek tragedy of Orestes, murdered his mother with an antique sword, My Son muddles up both filmmakers' reoccurring narrative and thematic propensities.
On a rafting trip to Peru, Brad McCallum (Shannon) is driven mad by the wilderness (see: Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre, Grizzly Man) and returns to the stifling environs of his stucco suburban home to stew in his own loony melancholy (shades of Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Lost Highway). Unfolding during a police standoff and told mostly in flashback by Brad's fiancé (Chloë Sevigny) and dramatic mentor (Udo Kier), the uninspired yarn is further impeded by an unrelenting score of cellos, accordions and mariachi bands, which seems not only tonally inconsistent with much of the action but impedes any independent evaluation of the film's tragic goings-on.
The digital cinematography by long-time Herzog collaborator Peter Zeitlinger is desperately muddy, especially disappointing since the format's benefits have elsewhere served the visions of both Herzog (in the arresting photography of his hi-def doc Encounters at the End of the World) and Lynch (in the uncompromising narrative head games of Inland Empire).
Any hopes that Herzog may here be covering his ass artistically against the backlash that will almost inevitably follow his Abel Ferrara redux, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, are thusly dashed. This Son is little more than the bastard child of two masters all too content to go through the motions. (Industrial Entertainment)