Starring: Restin Burk, Kate Randall
Directed By: Jarod O’Flaherty
Written By: Shawn Dally, Michael Dennis, Michelle Dietrich, Melanie Gardner, Stacey Kitchens, Jarod O’Flaherty, Matt Ward, Jennifer Wood
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
Rated R for Drug Use and Some Violence
Plot: When a young mother loses custody of her son, her boyfriend and his lifelong friend hatch a plan to get the toddler back.
LANCE’S TAKE: PURGATORY
When you think of dramas that have a gritty look and emotional feel to them, most of the time you think of stories that are set in larger cities. Life in rural areas is typically laid-back and quiet…or so we’d like to believe.
There aren’t many rural faith-based films that aim for the level of intensity that My Son does. It has a very original and intriguing concept that you wouldn’t normally find in the Christian genre, so naturally, it kicks the level of expectation up a notch. Mary and I have said in the past that a lot of faith-oriented movies are just retellings of other Christian films, so it’s definitely nice to see that not all Christian filmmakers have run out of ideas.
Of course, just because a story is original doesn’t mean it’s entirely free of problems. There are plenty of story elements in My Son that have a ton of potential, but a lot of them appear to go off the tracks for various reasons. The prime example of this – despite its originality – is actually the main plot. The young woman in this movie, Jess, loses guardianship of her son to her parents for one year so that she can get her act together and prove that she’s a responsible adult. She has unlimited visitation rights, although her parents live far away.
Well, Jess isn’t a fan of this arrangement, and neither is her boyfriend or his irresponsible buddy, who’s mainly to blame for Jess’s toddler being taken away in the first place. Her boyfriend’s pal claims that he’s got a great plan to reunite them, and everyone’s gonna live happily ever after. I won’t go into detail about what this guy comes up with, but trust me, it’s not a smart move. Needless to say, Jess’s boyfriend agrees with this idea, and reluctantly, she goes along with it as well.
Obviously, Jess is overcome with the thought of losing her child to her parents, with whom she’s already at odds. Regardless, it’s still hard to believe that she would take any sort of advice from the guy who helped her get in this situation to begin with, especially when his plan is ill-conceived, irrational, and unorganized. You may call it thinking with the heart instead of the brain, but whatever the case, it shows a lack of common sense on the part of the film’s main characters.
There are a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming, however, which kept the story engaging. Unfortunately, those twists then wound up being diminished thanks in part to some over-sentimental moments, but mainly because of the level of preachiness that occurs during the movie’s key scenes. The dialogue that’s spoken at these points just feels awkward and out of place; it’s almost like the characters are being forced to have these conversations instead of them happening naturally.
Part of that could be because of the acting. My Son is a very low budget film, and you can tell that most (if not all) of the actors are volunteers. Kate Randall, who plays Jess, does a fine job in her role, and everyone else has moments that are pretty good as well. There’s no doubt these actors will continue to grow as time goes along, but in this case, most of their characters don’t come across as very authentic.
There are also certain traits of smaller characters and a backstory at the very beginning of the film that could’ve easily been cut or revised to make the story flow more smoothly. The handheld camera movements used to intensify the characters and their situations can be a bit much at times, particularly if there’s not really any action going on. And although the movie is low budget, it looks as if the color correction was amped up to “roughen” the picture beyond what it really needed, making it look over-saturated in parts. However, I must say that the opening graphics are very well designed, as are the breaking news segments featured throughout the film.
So, if you can forgive the awkward sermonizing, various plot flaws and shaky acting that a lot of faith-based films suffer from, you might just enjoy My Son. And if you’re one of those folks who flat out refuses to watch anything that’s rated R, relax. There’s no profanity, sex or nudity anywhere in this film. It could have easily been rated PG-13, but as a lot of you know, the MPAA is inconsistent in it’s rating system (just Google “inconsistency in MPAA ratings” for countless examples). But, that’s a rant for another day.
This movie certainly could’ve been better, but at the same time, its originality, grittiness and unconventional ending are good to see in the Christian film market. My Son gets a low “Purgatory” from me.
MARY’S TAKE: PURGATORY
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, finding a faith-based film with an original story is no easy task. While they may not be exact, a lot of movies in this genre have plots that closely resemble each other.
Luckily, that’s not the case with My Son. The plot is definitely original, and the film has even received a fair amount of media attention because of its content. Now, it’s argued if that attention is because of the movie’s violence and grittiness, or because of its strong faith-based message. Either way, it’s turning heads.
Because of the level of media attention it’s gotten, I wasn’t sure what to expect from My Son. I know I did expect a lot more “questionable” content than what I actually saw. Yes, it is gritty. No, you probably don’t want young kids to watch it. But, I don’t feel the content is enough to stop adults from seeing it. This is one of those cases where the violence isn’t there just for the sake of being there. Without it, there really wouldn’t be much of a story (and don’t worry, it’s not graphic!).
But moving past the controversial aspect, is it really worth watching? I would say yes; I actually enjoyed this movie.
Although the production value wasn’t the greatest (it had more of a home movie feel than that of a theatrical release), the story made up for it. Of course, it seems like you can’t have a faith-based film without at least some cheesiness, but at least the filmmakers kept it dialed back to what I considered an acceptable amount.
The acting wasn’t too bad either, but at times it was overdone. There were definitely a few scenes that we could have done without, simply because they did nothing to further the story.
I also felt like the writers threw in a few things (like a character’s racism and another being accused of looking at porn) that had no place in the film. They were mentioned, and just as quickly they were forgotten. So, why even bother mentioning them? It just takes the focus off of the main story being told.
But like I said, I did enjoy My Son all in all, and I give it a very high “Purgatory.” If you’re in the mood for an original story with a powerful message of faith, I suggest you check this one out.
How would you rate this film?