A Son is accomplished filmmaking and storytelling - an accomplished invitation for the audience to be willing to share harrowing experiences. Source: ACOFB.
The title is simple, direct, for a drama that might happen anywhere in the world, but a simple title for a treatment of its themes which is cultural and geographical specific.
In fact, the setting is Tunisia. The date is 2011. Audiences will appreciate that this is the period of the Arab Spring in North Africa. In the background of this story are references to strict Islamists wanting power, armed groups in road ambushes, and, especially, the uprisings in in neighbouring Libya.
This is the background, but, centre-screen, is the story of a family. It starts with exuberance and joy, father, mother and son, friends and relatives, out at a picnic, hopeful, modern and contemporary, happy prospects.
Within the first 15 minutes, A Son moves from this exhilaration, mother father and boy jubilantly singing in the car on the way home, to unexpected violence, to a crisis, hospital and surgery, the probing of family secrets.
A word to describe the experience of this film is “harrowing”. While we might say that, at times, life itself is harrowing enough, it seems very important to experience this kind of harrowing story, experience its beginning, complex developments, and ending within two hours of screen time.
Sami Bouajila is a celebrated French actor with African background and has appeared in a number of films for two decades. Here he plays Fares, a successful businessman, devoted to his wife, Meriem, who is also a professional. They have an 11-year-old son, Aziz, who seems to have a zest for life. And it is he who is taken to hospital, requiring demanding surgery, hanging on for his life, much of his liver destroyed, in need of a liver transplant (but finding himself way down on the list for transplants).
While the focus is on Aziz and audience hopes for successful surgery, the drama takes us into unanticipated complications, emotional complications to be handled by Fares and Meriem. They are complications that audiences will recognise and appreciate how difficult it is to communicate them and deal with their consequences.
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
A Son: Starring Sami Bouajila, Najla Ben Abdallah, Youssef Khemiri. Directed by Mehdi Barsaoui. 95 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and violence).
Bik Eneich/A Son (ACOFB)