Carpenter at a Measured Distance

We have no idea why the camera is consistently following a carpenter instructor named Olivier (Olivier Gourmet). But our curiosity raises a flag when we realize he’s obsessed with a boy. We tag along clueless, barely getting glimpses of the boy in the first endless minutes. First, he sends the boy to welding and then later on he changes his mind and admits the boy as an apprentice.

The conflicted actions of the instructor sets up the movie. As time slowly ticks by, we will learn a disturbing event but the actions of the instructor will fail to be clear. When he is asked as to why he does what he does, his honest reply is “I don’t know.” We are also ambiguous on how to respond to the young apprentice (Morgan Marinne). He haunts the screen like a lonely ghost. The kid tries to strike a relationship with the distant instructor and we don’t know if it’s a good idea.

I have nothing against “The Son.” In fact, I think it has a great story but I’m not sure illustrating it in a movie format like this works. It would have worked better on paper as a short story, or even as a short film. It doesn’t have enough developments or tension to justify its 110 minute length. It has a lot of footage where we watch over Olivier Gourmet’s shoulders. His ear gets as much screen time as his face. Most of the things we see are seemingly ordinary. I have no problem with this realistic and voyeuristic approach. I found this technique mesmerizing in “Elephant” but in that movie, I was thoroughly interested. While I don’t regret having seen “The Son”, I would consider it a torture if I don’t have a fast-forward button handy for a second viewing.

I guess my meandering interest prevented my full appreciation of the movie and its art. I did admire the two central performances because the actors are far from being artificial. Gourmet stands out as the ordininary-looking instructor and greatly conceals a whirlwind of emotions in his mysterious face. Marinne as the boy is a promising find. He has a rough face but he portrays the role with a beaten and zoned-out mind. I guess see the movie for the acting but I am wary of its structure. It is too raw for me. It could have used some polishing, barnishing, or anything to make the movie a craft worthy of its exact subject.