Critics React After Hugh Jackman’s Latest Movie The Son Got A Particularly Outstanding Ovation

Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern and Zen McGrath in The Son
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Classics)

Following his appearance in the 2021 sci-fi movie Reminiscence, Hugh Jackman will be back on the big screen soon for Sony Pictures Classics’ The Son. While the general public is still a few months out from seeing Jackman’s performance in this upcoming movie, The Son premiered this week at the Venice Film Festival and was met with a 10-minute standing ovation afterwards. Following that screening, critics have now shared their thoughts about Jackman’s latest movie

For those who haven’t heard about The Son, it follows a 17-year-old named Nicholas (Zen McGrath), who decides he no longer wants to live with his mother Kate (Laura Dern) and moves in with his father Peter (Hugh Jackman) and his new romantic partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby), with the two of them raising their own baby together. Peter does his best to mange his job, take care of his newborn and care for Nicholas in the way he wishes his father had done for him, but Peter’s attempts to fix past mistakes result in him losing sight on how to hold on to Nicholas in the present. The Son is based off the play Le Fils by Florian Zeller, who directed the film adaptation and co-wrote that script with Christopher Hampton. Zeller was also the filmmaker behind the Anthony Hopkins-led The Father, and yes, these two movies are narratively connected.

Deadline passed along that The Son received a 10-minute standing ovation at Venice on Wednesday evening, and Deadline’s own review for the movie said it delivers “emotionally powerful stuff” and “the most impressive dramatic performance” of Hugh Jackman’s career.The outlet also complimented Zen McGrath, Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby for what they brought to the movie.

[A] strong character-driven piece that is opened up a little more, but still has the feeling of an intimate family drama without obvious flashy technique that would sink it.

BBC also had some positive words to say about The Son, but ultimately fell into more mixed territory with the movie, rating it 3 out of 5 stars. The publication that that The Son “works at its best when it navigates how scary and slippery it is to try and help someone you love who is expressing suicide ideation,” but said that Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern lean into “stagey tics that come off as emotionally dishonest and misaligned” with Zen McGrath’s performance, as well as that the movie feels “visually short-changed.”

[It] is a flawed film with a kind heart, but a significantly less impressive progeny of The Father's talky triumph. Like father, like son? Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case.

The Playlist stamped The Son with a B- grade, saying that while Florian Zeller is unable to “reproduce the magic” of The Father and this new movie is “a mostly middling piece of maudlin manipulation,” Hugh Jackman’s performance improves The Son’s quality, as does its “greatest asset: the thematic underpinnings of its source material.”

There’s enough humanity from the story and performers alike that cuts to the soul and mostly offsets the uninspired direction. But The Son should shine at least a little brighter through the dark material given these participants and their previous triumphs.

Finally, Indiewire wasn’t particular impressed with The Son, giving it a C. The reviewer found the movie to be a depressing tale that made The Father “feel like a Paddington movie in comparison,” as well as stated that The Son is “so pornographic in its pain (and so utterly bereft of air or lightness) that it can’t help but feel like an argument against having children in the first place.”

Lacking any of the puzzle box magic that allowed Zeller’s previous film to rescue profound traces of humanity from the massacre of its mental illness, The Son offers a stiff and straightforward family portrait that emphasizes the senselessness of depression through the simplicity of its plot.

There are other reviews for The Son you can read for yourself, but it sounds like there’ll be polarizing opinions over whether it belongs in the list of best Hugh Jackman movies, and it’s certainly not something to check out if you’re in need of having your spirits lifted. Still, if you’d like to judge The Son for yourself, you can do so once it arrives in theaters on November 11. Be sure to also read what critics thought of Brendan Fraser’s The Whale coming out of Venice, and how the early reception to Don’t Worry Darling has shaped out following its world premiere.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.