List Film

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (3 stars)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

(15) 93min

Inspired by true events, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done tells the story of Brad Macallum (Michael Shannon), an aspiring actor who commits the crime he is to enact in a Greek tragedy in which he is performing.

So here it is. The outré cinema geek event of the year in which filmmakers David Lynch and Werner Herzog go head to head. This is the collaboration of the two greatest talents currently working in English language cinema, with Lynch taking the producer’s seat while Herzog directs, and attempts, in essence, to make a David Lynch film. Like a super group or a coalition government the result is patchy and disappointing but occasionally thrilling and interesting.

Called to the scene of a domestic disturbance in suburban San Diego, Detective Hank Havenhurst (Willem Dafoe) arrives to discover an elderly woman (Grace Zabriskie) lying in a pool of blood with an antique sword lying next to the body. The prime suspect is the woman’s son, Brad (Shannon), who is now barricaded inside a nearby house and appears to have taken hostages. As Havenhurst waits, he investigates the events leading up to the murder via the accounts of several neighbours as well as Brad’s fiancée, Ingrid (Chloe Sevigny), and his theatrical director Lee (Udo Kier).

With its sterile suburban San Diego setting, non linear structure, potty characters and mundane dialogue, My Son, My Son calls to mind some of the best and worst things of the collected oeuvres of its director and producer. The trouble is that by reducing the suspense and upping the willful obscurity, the film becomes little more than an experimental curio peopled by decent actors turning in terribly hammy stylised performances. Still, there are a few dark laughs to be had and a certain pungent underlying perversity makes sure it is memorable for sure.

GFT, Glasgow, Fri 17–Thu 23 Sep.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? trailer

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

  • 3 stars
  • 2009
  • USA/Germany
  • 91 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Werner Herzog
  • Written by: Werner Herzog, Herbert Golder
  • Cast: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Udo Kier

David Lynch and Werner Herzog band together to tell the tale of an actor who commits the crime he is to perform in a Greek tragedy. Pairing two of the best cinematic talents promises so much, but delivers both the best and worst aspects of their collective oeuvres.


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