Venice Film Review: ‘A Son’

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Not many debuting directors are able to bring subtlety and depth to a heart-rending subject, which is just one reason why Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s superb “A Son” deserves significant attention. On the s…

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” deserves significant attention. On the surface, the plot sounds like it could be taken from a hospital TV drama: When a young boy needs a liver transplant, his father discovers he’s not the biological parent. Such a bare-bones description does the film no justice, as Barsaoui’s sensitive script delves into issues of masculinity and paternity without losing sight of the strong female character and her double trauma as she faces the potential loss of both child and husband.

Barsaoui proves himself far too sensitive a director to show Meriem explaining this to Fares, instead cutting to immediately after, as he walks down the hospital corridor in a daze. Earlier scenes of the intimate relationship between father and son already brought Fares’ delight in being a parent to the fore, and now his world has been rocked to its foundations.

Organ donation is a relatively new thing in Tunisia, and the wait list is too long to offer much hope. Fares avoids interacting with his wife while Meriem desperately tries tracking down the former colleague she slept with that one time 12 years ago. Outside the hospital, Fares is approached by a sympathetic man introducing himself as Mr.

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