The Son has a simple premise, there is little action, no adventure and a small amount of mystery yet it is as intense an experience as you are likely to see on film.
As the film starts a man named Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) who teaches carpentry in a vocational school for teenagers is troubled by the appearance of one of the new students. He sneaks around and acts in the most peculiar way. Then against the wishes of his ex-wife and his own inclinations he takes the young man (Morgan Marnine) under his wing and begins to teach him the trade.
Although we know - after thirty minutes - the connection he has with the boy the boy does not know himself. And from there the suspense builds. Suffice it to say the two are connected by a tragedy of the past and as the film goes on their relationship becomes more complex and suspence builds.
The story of this Belgian film by the Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is a good one but the way it is directed is extraordinary and lifts the material into the upper echelons of quality world cinema.
The Dardenne Brothers almost completely eschew traditional filmmaking techniques. They use very little editing, utilize a hand held camera and try to blend the form of the film's look with the content. In The Son they use a very interesting technique of following the main characters up close and behind them so we see the back of their head; as if we are put into a position to read their thoughts from behind.
These techniques not only add a visual flair but really draw the viewer into the story. Plus the measured and intense performance by Olivier Gourmet adds an extra level to the film. The Dardennes also do without a manipulative music score letting the situations in the carpentry shop, the hand held camera and the performances build all the suspense we need.
This was one of the best films of 2003 but few people saw it. Now that the DVD is out don't miss it.