‘The Son’ Director Florian Zeller & Star Laura Dern Aim To Open “A Conversation” On Mental Health With Parenting Drama – Contenders L.A.

With his latest film The Son, filmmaker Florian Zeller looked to open “a conversation” surrounding issues of mental health that he feels there’s too often “shame, guilt and ignorance around.” Another key component of the storytelling — here, as in Zeller’s recent Oscar winner The Father — is parenthood, and the difficulty of experiencing a sense of “powerlessness” in this arena. 

The second film in a trilogy based on Zeller’s plays, The Son tells the story of Peter (Hugh Jackman), whose busy life with new partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their baby is thrown into disarray when his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up with their teenage son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath).

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When Dern first read Zeller’s script, she was quickly compelled, particularly given the fact that she, too, is a parent. “This [was] writing that exposes humanity in a way we rarely receive. As an actor it was such an incredible gift,” she told Zeller on Saturday at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Los Angeles awards-season event. “[Making this film] was such a truly deepening experience in not only human vulnerability, but particularly as a parent, sharing with the parents I was working with the vulnerability of holding blame, guilt, shame, especially around mental health.” 

Dern shared during today’s chat at Contenders Los Angeles moderated by Antonia Blyth that Jackman feels who he is as a parent “has forever changed” from the experience of making the film. (The Oscar-nominated actor was scheduled to appear but was forced to bow out of the presentation after losing his voice following recent work in Broadway’s The Music Man.) 

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Dern went on to say that she shares Jackman’s takeaway from the experience, feeling that it made them both more inclined “to deeply listen” before trying to “jump in and fix” things for their kids. 

 Zeller directed The Son from his and Christopher Hampton’s script. The Venice 2022 title will get a one-week-only awards qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles on November 25 before opening nationwide on January 20.

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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