Manner is about as Hollywood as you can get in Finland. Her oldest son Ilmari is her greatest
enabler. It is a small but ragingly
dysfunctional family unit that Manner’s would be suitor should steer well clear
of in Zaida Bergroth’s The Good Son (trailer here), which screens
during the 2012 St. Louis International Film Festival.
just burned another batch of bridges at her latest movie premiere. Hounded by the press, she whisks off Il
Manner and his younger brother Unto for a secluded rest in their vacation
home. Of course, as soon as she arrives,
she gets bored and proceeds to invite some deadbeat showbiz friends over for a
party. She immediately clashes with a
fellow actress, but there is a bit of chemistry between her and well known
author Aimo Marttila, a friend of a friend.
Ilmari Bates does not like the looks of him at all, but for a while he
seems to be preoccupied with his ex-girlfriend, the small town floozy
Karita. Yet, his psychological issues only
need a slight push to reappear in spades.
the hands of another director, Good Son could
have easily traveled into genre territory.
Instead, Bergroth is more concerned with the family relationship dynamics. In a way, it could be considered the dark
flip side of parental reversal films, like The Descendants, in which precocious children abet the dubious parenting of an
immature father or mother. Ilmari is a
rather twisted kid, but what can a self-absorbed, boozy diva like Manner
expect? Why Marttila would want anything
to do with her is hard to fathom.
not dogme per se, Good Son definitely
has a modest indie look. At least, it is
sunny by the lake. In contrast, the
psyches on display are rather dark. A
fitting companion to Paprika Steen’s crash-and-burn star turn in Applause, Bergroth stages an
uncomfortably intimate chamber drama.
Although not reaching Steen’s level of soul-shredding, Elina Knihtilä is
still rather frighteningly convincing portraying Manner’s vain and
all the warning signs his character ignores, Eero Aho brings an appropriately
mature, world-weary presence to Marttila.
However, as the title character, Samuli Niittymäki might be going for
slow burning intensity, but largely gives the audience empty stares.
To her credit, Bergroth resists overplaying the
oedipal card, suggesting many dimensions to the mother-son codependency. Not exactly winding up where you might
expect, Good Son is surprisingly
honest and grounded, considering its potential for sensationalism. It consistently
commands viewer attention even with its weak lead. Moderately recommended for those drawn to
psychological dramas, The Good Son screens
this Saturday (11/10) and Tuesday (11/13) as part of this year’s SFIFF. More highly recommended, Christian Petzold’s Barbara, Michael Roskam’s Bullhead, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot, Valeriy Todorovsky’s Hipsters, H.P. Mendoza’s I Am a Ghost, Tom Shuyu Lin’s Starry Starry Night, and Eric Khoo’s Tatsumi will also screen during the
Labels: Family drama, Scandinavian Cinema, SLIFF '12