My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done review ?½

"David Lynch presents a film by Werner Herzog" is the opening credit title for this movie so that should give you some indication that it's a decidedly offbeat effort to sit through. And dissatisfying too if truth be told. It has digital camerawork and seems to be shot in natural light, so the colour looks all washed out and the actors seem as if they're in shadow for most scenes. The sequences are crying out to be well lit. I draw attention to this simply because the plot and performances fail to engage.

Michael Shannon plays an unhinged actor who kills his mother with a sword, mirroring the small scale theatre production of Orestes that he is currently rehearsing. The police believe he is also holding two hostages in his home and a siege situation develops. William Dafoe plays the caring detective in charge of the stand-off, convinced that Shannon is a psychopath.

This whole set-up is entirely devoid of tension and suspense, as we pause for flashbacks to the actor's troubled past, his spiritual awakening in Peru and Mexico and his problematic relationship with his overbearing mother (Zabriskie). His fiancee (Sevigny) and director (Kier) turn up and try to give assistance but are no less effective in shaping the outcome as anyone else.

It lacks a forceful performance to drive it, as Nicolas Cage did with his wonderful turn in Herzog's previous film Bad Lieutenant. Shannon, normally a first rate performer, here lacks vibrancy in animating his character's demons while Dafoe should be far more energetic in dealing with the strange events. There's no pace to the proceedings and the protagonists are too obtuse, so one is left wholly uninvolved in this aimless and pretentious piffle. Herzog fans will probably find something of interest though and Lynch acolytes might like to know that a dwarf shows up in one scene, but overall this is a meandering bore.

Official Site
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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