My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)

R   |    |  Drama, Thriller

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009) Poster

Inspired by a true crime, a man begins to experience mystifying events that lead him to slay his mother with a sword.

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  • Willem Dafoe and Michael Peña in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
  • Willem Dafoe and Chloë Sevigny in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
  • Chloë Sevigny and Michael Shannon in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
  • Udo Kier in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
  • My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
  • Willem Dafoe and Michael Peña in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)

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15 October 2010 | chaos-rampant
"I don't want go to the sweat lodge where the 104 year old shaman reads Hustler"
Roger Ebert said about My Son that it "confounds all convention and denies all expected pleasures", and this is partially true because there's a murder but we know who did it and we know where he is, right across the street, and the hostage situation that develops outside the suspect's place is perfunctory at best (which means Willem Dafoe as the homicide detective has very little to do here, no this is Mike Shannon's film), but in place of the tired conventions of the detective movie Herzog invents new pleasures, strange and mystifying and sometimes completely mindbending and hilarious, like the mental image of a midget on a baby horse being chased by a 45 pound chicken that is taller than both rider and horse, an idea for a commercial Brad Dourif explains wide-eyed with fascination, but a commercial to what how should he know!

This is an amazing film on the poetics of madness using the real story of a man who slew his mother with a sword to tell us about absurdity in the world. It's like jumping over the fence of an insane asylum to mingle with the inmates and pay attention to what they have to say because there might be truth there, and if there isn't they always make up the best of stories. Herzog's most famous characters have been romantic madmen indeed, and Brad McCulloch fits right next to Cobra Verde the slavetrader bandit, he's the cynic who rebels and leaves his rebellion incomplete, without a grand message for the world. He goes rafting in Peru then gives up on it, tells his friends he won't go to the sweat lodge where the 104 year old shaman smokes Kool cigarettes and reads Hustler, that he wants to stun his inner growth and become a Muslim. He berates his hippie friend who meditates on a rock facing the river, and tells him to open his eyes, reality is around him.

As with other Herzog films, I like this so much because it celebrates insane human behaviour, monomania and folly, dogged human pursuit for transcendence against a yawning futile universe. I like how this is punctuated by some amazing images; like the dinner scene at Brad's house with his girlfriend and mother, where all three of them simply stop moving and freeze in position. People who love to hate David Lynch, will find plenty of room for maneuvre here to call My Son strange for its own sake, nonsensical and pretentious. In a meeting between Herzog and Lynch before the film was made, they both expressed a desire for, in Herzog's words, "a return to essential filmmaking" with small budgets, good stories, and the best actors available. This is all that, except in the way very few people can make it.

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Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£6,815 (UK) (10 September 2010)

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