Anxiety over the birth of a child has been mercilessly exploited as fertile ground for disturbing scenarios in cinema, often with supernatural forces at play, from the emblematic “Rosemary’s Baby” to Darren Aronofsky’s divisive “Mother!” Though stemming from that same narrative genealogy, Argentine director Sebastián Schindel’s “The Son” gives the tropes a paternal and obliquely sci-fi twist.
Acutely harnessing tension, Schindel worked from Leonel D’Agostino’s script — an adaption of Guillermo Martínez’s novel — about renowned painter Lorenzo (Joaquín Furriel) and his younger Norwegian wife, Sigrid (Heidi Toini), a biologist studying mollusks who has set up a laboratory in their basement, after their firstborn arrives with the help of a stern Scandinavian midwife.
Convinced that his newborn son has been replaced with an imposter, Lorenzo is diagnosed with Capgras syndrome, which matches such a symptom, and has only his former student/lover Julieta (Martina Gusman) to help him prove his theory. Cutting between the male protagonist’s horrid present and the concrete events that led to it, Schindel succeeds at creating unnerving ambiguity aided by an ear-piercing score.
Furriel’s intensely distressed rendition, fueled by his character’s disbelief at how the system appears to never be in his favor, imparts complex poignancy into this moderately distinctive psychological thriller.
Till its very last frame, “The Son” maintains a determined stance not to show more than needed to keep one guessing, even if the symbolic references it tries to make and the social statements it may be carrying are left inconclusive.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Available Friday on Netflix