My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Werner Herzog
prd Eric Bassett
scr Herbert Golder, Werner Herzog
with Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon, Chloe Sevigny, Udo Kier, Grace Zabriskie, Brad Dourif, Michael Peña, Loretta Devine, Irma P Hall, Braden Lynch, Gabriel Pimentel, James C Burns
release US 11.Dec.09, UK 10.Sep.10
09/US 1h33
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Family ties: Zabriskie, Shannon and Sevigny

dafoe pena kier

london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done There's no way that combining the geniuses of producer David Lynch and director Werner Herzog could result in something that wasn't utterly bonkers. But this film, based on true events, also has a startlingly emotional kick.

In San Diego, two detectives (Dafoe and Peña) converge on a suburban stand-off where a killer, Brad (Shannon), claims to be holding hostages. As the tension builds, Brad's girlfriend Ingrid (Sevigny) and his theatre-director friend Lee (Kier) arrive to help the cops, explaining Brad's somewhat strained relationship with his mother (Zabriskie) and his eccentric Uncle Ted (Dourif). They also talk about how he has never quite been himself after a mind-opening trip to Peru.

Gifted cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger manages to shoot a film that's both gorgeously sleek and quirkily gaudy while tenaciously building a creep-out tone that's blackly hilarious. With shifting angles, striking sets and insinuating editing, we're drawn into a story that unfolds in flashbacks that startle us with each revelation. We piece the events together along with the police, although since we also see the back-story on screen, we have a few more details.

The result is a film that gets increasingly under our skin as it goes along, tying up loose ends along the way while leaving other things maddeningly out of reach. This offbeat storytelling may infuriate moviegoers who like tidy plotting, but for fans of bold filmmaking that challenges our perceptions of real events, this is simply stunning. The flashbacks alone are worth the price of admission, from the fateful river trip in Peru to flaring tensions in the theatre group to, most outrageously (and most Lynchian), the bizarre relationship between Brad and his mum.

Along the way, Herzog offers some potent commentary about fanaticism, and he sparks his cast to truly remarkable performances, including a series of eerily frozen tableaux. Shannon is especially good as the unhinged young man whose world seems to spiral into a sort of Inca tragedy, with Zabriskie stealing her scenes by simply deploying those magnificent eyes. This isn't a whodunit, and it doesn't really explain why either, but as an exploration of one man's increasingly erratic behaviour, it's pure magic.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 22.Jun.10 eiff

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