My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/09/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Enjoyably weird thriller that's a treat for fans of both Herzog and Lynch, with a superb script and great performances from a terrific ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by David Lynch, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? stars Willem Dafoe and Michael Pena as San Diego detectives Havenhurst and Vargas, who arrive at a suburban crime scene where deranged killer Brad McCallum (Michael Shannon) has apparently stabbed his mother (Grace Zabriskie) with a samurai sword and has taken two hostages. As negotiations unfold, Havenhurst and Vargas are joined by a series of Brad's acquaintances, including his girlfriend, Ingrid (Chloe Sevigny) and theatre director friend Lee (Udo Kier), each of whom shed light on Brad's back story and mental state through a series of illuminating flashbacks.

The Good
Michael Shannon contributes yet another addition to his ever-expanding gallery of onscreen weirdos and as ever, he's a treat to watch; hopefully, Herzog has realised by this point that if he wants a Klaus Kinski de nos jours, he need look no further than Michael Shannon. There's also terrific support from an instant-cult-movie cast that includes Willem Dafoe (playing it straight to unexpectedly brilliant effect), Chloe Sevigny (“I'm his fiancee! I think I can help!”), Udo Kier, Brad Dourif (as Brad's ostrich farm-owning Uncle Ted) and Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie.

The Great
The script is excellent, throwing in off-the-wall references to Herzog's back catalogue (notably Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo), bizarre, borderline pretentious moments (such as the supposed symbolism of Brad leaving a basketball in a tree) and laugh-out-loud weirdness (e.g. Brad loudly reciting the words of a play from the audience after he's replaced in the lead role), while still making it work – just about – as a straight-up thriller (incredibly, the film is apparently based on true events).

In addition, the film is strikingly shot, courtesy of superb cinematography from Peter Zeitlinger and special credit is definitely due to the ostrich-wrangler for a moment during the ostrich farm scene that is pure genius (“Don't you do that again!”).

Worth seeing?
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is an enjoyably bonkers thriller that's a must-see for fans of both Lynch and Herzog and would make a terrific double bill with Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 10:09

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