An attempt at a Kramer vs. Kramer-style custody battle through the lens of a gay marriage, Our Son (★★☆☆☆) offers an interesting premise and a semi-notable cast, but not much more.
The biggest obstacle is a script that more often than not sounds like a 1980s soap opera. In what universe do lines like, “Sometimes I feel like you don’t appreciate my work” and “I’ve met somebody — somebody I have feelings for” pass for the way human beings talk?
What further irks is the improbable lack of emotional history between the couple.
Nicky (Luke Evans) and Gabriel (Billy Porter) have supposedly been together for more than a decade and yet somehow they appear never to have discussed their parenting styles, let alone had it out after a sleepless night over piles of diapers and a fussing baby.
Moving among their modern, clutter-less rooms, they seem like two actors who’ve just been handed an index card telling them who they are what they are supposed to represent mere moments before the camera rolls.
There are overlong pauses, awkward expository, bombshells left unanswered, and the patently wooden.
After Nicky reveals to his parents that he’s about to embark on a potentially devastating custody battle with Gabriel, his mother winces for a nanosecond before moving on with, “There’s more cake inside if you want some.” If this was meant to convey a woman defaulting to the familiar in the face of emotional turmoil, it didn’t just miss the boat, it missed the turn off to the lake.
Frankly, watching Our Son is like dealing with a bouncer at the door. You can see there’s something important going on and you’d quite like to find out what it is, but you just can’t get past the awkward bulk in the way.
What does emerge often feels out of context and proportion. When Nicky reconnects with his single life, for example, his hookup feels like an erotically-charged red herring that borders on the gratuitous.
There are tantalizing glimpses of what Our Son might have been. The custody meeting between Nicky and Gabriel and their lawyers comes to life with some genuine engagement.
Likewise, though usually in a vacuum, the actors occasionally emote with an authenticity that would have moved the needle in a more fully conceived work. Bill Oliver’s movie remains a missed opportunity, leaving a host of complexities yet to be given their due.
Our Son plays on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 9 p.m. at The Eaton.
Live screenings of Reel Affirmations films are Oct. 20 to 22 at the Eaton Hotel, 1201 K St. NW, in Washington, D.C.
Reel Affirmations 2023 includes the Virtual Film Festival providing online access to 43 films for those film lovers who cannot attend the festival in person, with a viewing window from Oct. 23 to 29. Of the 43 films, 26 are available only online.
For a full schedule of films, including retrospective showings, all pricing and pass options, and party information, visit www.thedccenter.org/reelaffirmations.
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