Son Is Shining
released 8 august 2016 | 12 | Blu-ray/dvd Director Jeff Nichols Cast Michael shannon, Joel edgerton, Kirsten dunst, adam driver
Though not Jeff Nichols’s first foray into the fantastic – 2011’s Take Shelter concerned a man suffering apocalyptic visions – Midnight Special still seems like a departure for the indie director. A homage to family-friendly adventures of the ’70s and ’80s – Nichols has namechecked Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Starman; you could add Escape To Witch Mountain to the list – it uses plot elements of those movies, but tonally feels quite distinct.
Michael “Zod” Shannon plays Roy Tomlin, whose son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has astonishing, inexplicable abilities. A religious community referred to as the Ranch see the boy as a saviour. For the government he’s a subject for study. Cue a chase across country, with Roy willing to do anything to keep Alton out of their hands.
It’s a film which delights in withholding information – it takes quite some time to piece together the slender synopsis above – but piecing together the puzzle has its pleasures. It grabs you whenever it shifts up a couple of gears – such as in a scene involving a messy shootout and equally chaotic car chase – or reveals more about the full extent of Alton’s powers. And though it’s frustratingly underexplained, the finale has an undeniable sense of wonder.
But emotionally it’s something of a damp squib. This is prime Spielberg territory, but you won’t need a hanky. The subtext will no doubt resonate with parents, particularly those who’ve ever felt powerless in the face of a child’s illness. But it feels odd that a film like this is so reluctant to utter the word “love”. Roy’s bond with Alton is robust, but communicated largely through Shannon’s intense glaring. Even cynics and Spielberg-phobes might find themselves wishing for a little less restraint, and a spoonful of sentimentality.
Extras Nine short, choppily edited EPK interviews with cast and crew. At one point Alton asks what Kryptonite is. Originally he asked about Adamantium; it was changed after Shannon was cast.
“And this, my son, is Donald Trump’s hair.”