My Son My Son What Have Ye Done review by Jackass Tom

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is a hostage negotiation drama told mostly in flashback and is centered and centered on a loony named Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon). McCullumn had taken a sword to his mother (Grace Zabriskie) and then locked himself up in his house. His fiancée, Ingrid (Chloe Svenigy) tells us, he has been a bit weird since coming back from Peru. During the trip, everyone but him died during white water rafting; he survived because he listened to the voices in his head and decided not to raft in less than ideal waters.

…and this Peru trip happened a year before the hostage situation. Since then he hears voices. He sees God on a box of oats. He likes to be called Farouk. He flakes out during his play rehearsals. And he is a complete momma’s boy to the point where at times he regresses to acting like a little boy. So yeah…he is a bit off the deep end. Meanwhile, I’m thinking how can Ingrid be his fiancée for an entire year. Wow Ingrid… just….wow. Way to stick by your man. There are moments in the movie where you are thinking all this girl needs is some Dr. Phil. Like, when your boyfriend calls you to Tijuana so he can show how light plays through a set of six, connected prescription glasses it might be time to give the ring back. Its also interesting to note that they never anything on McCullum before Peru so its hard to estimate how normal he was (or wasn’t) over a year ago.

As I watched the end, I felt as if it were a little empty. Spoilier coming up…. It ends with very little in the way of drama or action. McCullum essentially reveals that his hostages were nothing more than flamingos by divulging their names (Ingrid, was all over that). Then the police officers move in, pull him out and arrest him. I thought at first, maybe it was shallow of me to expect and hope for the big American shoot-out. It’s become an action film standard to end the tense hostage negotiation with a big fiery blowout, guns-a-blazing, and the bad guy having all his pores filled with lead. That didn’t happen here and at first I thought my let down was attributed to such a muted ending. But then I looked back on what was expected from the film. Before the situation occurred, Detective Havenhurst (an under-used Willem Dafoe) was telling a story to Detective Vargas about being pulled over by another cop. It was an amusing anecdote about how he led the other cop to believe he was a civilian until it came time to receive his ticket. Havenhurst finishes by saying, “I’m not sure whose worse, us or the criminals.” That quote is a great bit of foreshadowing that the rest of the movie doesn’t seem to build upon. The detectives, for the rest of the film, merely play the part of interviewer. There is never any build up to obscuring good and evil between the police and McCullum as all of the focus is on McCullum and his back story.

Also there was the disappointment of McCullum being nothing more than a lunatic. There was a mysticism built around his sudden. This disappointment is probably due to David Lynch’s name being attached to the film. When you hear in the first 10 minutes that the murderer started acting weird ever since Peru, and it’s a film David Lynch produced, you expect there to be some crazy mumbo jumbo revealed by the end of the film. Maybe a black portal to another world where the not-so-weird McCullum is locked away with a midget and a cowboy. (Oddly as I type this I realize there is a moment with a cowboy and a midget after all... but its not played up for strangeness as much as it just plain doesn't fit with the film). But no, he is just a run-of-the-mill lunatic who wonders why everyone is looking at him.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is a film with both David Lynch’s name (producer) and Werner Herzog’s name (director) firmly attached, but make no mistake; this is Herzog’s film. The theme is very operatic in nature (a man killing his mother and going insane) which would play more into Herzog’s domain. And the story is more or less straight forward; definitely playing against the obscured timelines of Lynch’s more recent films. The only note that I could see being played by Lynch is the use of Grace Zabriskie as Brad’s mother. Zabriskie has this way of smiling in David Lynch films and looking sorta like the devil. She does that once in this film, holds it for about 5 seconds. For that moment, I thought for a moment I was transported back to Twin Peaks.

Sadly the film never completely takes off. Michael Shannon gives a tremendous performance and forces the viewer to buy into his mania, obsession with speaking to God, and childlike persona. But there is never a hint given as to what happened to him in Peru (other than 'he heard voices') or why he took performing his play to a new level and killed his mother. There aren't even traces of the mysticism that could have possibly caused this other than the film's initial setup. So never is there a deep dive into the detective's characters and never is there much inspection on why the Peru so deeply affected the main character; two areas that the film seemed to kick off with. Just a number of flashbacks revealing how far McCullum had fallen back in his sanity and it doesn't really fulfill my hopes and expectations.

4 out of 10 Jackasses
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