Olivier (Gourmet) is a reserved yet tightly wound carpenter who teaches reform-school graduates the tricks of his trade in a small Belgian town. When a new student, teenage Francis (Marinne), enters the program, Olivier takes charge of his training with an obsessive, troubling attentiveness that is at once paternal and coldly dispassionate. Soon, we learn why: Francis is the boy responsible for killing Olivier's son five years earlier.
This stark, unnerving drama by the esteemed Dardenne brothers skirts the themes of reckoning and vengeance without committing fully to either one, yet it packs a mighty emotional punch. In a brilliant, haunting performance, Gourmet plays an ordinary tradesman whose motivations, like his emotions, are completely unfathomable. Is he planning to reform Francis, or kill him? With the Dardennes' tight, handheld camerawork, we are immersed in the claustrophobic, indecipherable world of Olivier's body language, and the effect is chilling. Once "The Son" gets you in its vice grip, it doesn't let go.