Tu hijo (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★
It has the framework of a revenge-thriller: A father (Jose Coronado) receives news that his son (Pol Monen) has been beaten so badly outside a nightclub that he is now in a coma. But instead of going the expected route and exploring familiar themes, “Your Son,” co-written by Alberto Marini and Miguel Ángel Vivas, directed by the latter, turns out to be a character study of a man so used to being in control and respected (he is a surgeon), that when life deals him an impossible hand, certainly a losing hand, he realizes he is a coward. It is a fascinating portrait, one that is worthy of discussion, one that left me shaken but wanting to talk about what I’d just seen.
For about half the picture, it takes its time in feeding us what we come to expect from the familiar template of a grieving parent who becomes obsessed with the idea of getting some sort of retribution for a family member’s honor. We follow Jaime from the moment he gets word that his son is fighting for his life, as he listens to a detective going over video footages that capture the final minutes that lead to the crime, as he returns in an empty home from a sleepless night, and as he finds the first clue that may lead to one of the perpetrators. These scenes are directed with such patience and calculation that I began to think that although am highly invested in the story, there is nothing about it that is fresh.
As it the material gathers power, however, it dares to test the viewer’s patience. Why is it that although Jaime has found one of the suspects, he simply would not—or could not—concoct a plan to isolate the person of interest, nab him, get more information out of him, and finally punish him? After all, isn’t inflicting punishment what he wants? Or is that we what we want to see? The reason is because the film is not interested in the usual points of catharsis. Showing violence when we expect it is to create entertainment out of something that should not be entertaining especially given the film’s recurring themes. Clearly, there is discipline in the screenplay; it trusts us to try and figure out how the pieces actually go together when they do not fit with our initial assumptions.
Coronado’s face is front and center for nearly half of the picture. We see him devolve from a tired but relatively happy man to someone rather unrecognizable in thought and action. There is irony in the fact that despite the son being the one whose face became disfigured, it is the father who undergoes a more horrifying transformation. Like the best performers, Coronado’s eyes are able to communicate at least two emotions at any given moment. The manner in which Jaime looks into the void and then suddenly being forced to focus on a person or a matter at hand is masterclass. His extensive experience shines through every beat which makes watching him quite mesmerizing.
“Tu hijo” is not interested in a tidy or happy ending as long as the journey is complete. More films should follow its example since the approach leaves something for the viewer to think about. The final few minutes is maddening but appropriate—an excellent way of unveiling what the story is really about rather than what we hope for it to be about. The work is helmed with intelligence and class.