My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (Herzog, 2009)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (Werner Herzog, 2009)

As expected with Herzog, this movie is wild. I kept hearing that it was funny in an absurd sort of way, though after hearing the audience laugh to make themselves more comfortable at a viewing of Aguirre, I shouldn’t be surprised that’s how this is viewed. In reality, it’s what I consider a warm and serious look at a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Herzog doesn’t coddle, psychoanalyze, or mistreat his protagonist. He just tells the sad tale of a man who needed help and never got it.

Michael Shannon is perfect in the lead role, slowly letting himself succumb to the goings on in his head. Despite the movie being about the murder of his mother, there are several moments of tenderness. While in Canada, he descends an ascending escalator, walking but not moving, and gazing in wonder at an endless tunnel of glass windows. In moments like these you can feel the complicated nature of the mind and it’s easy to understand how fragile it might be.

The story is told through police interviews of the protagonist’s fiance and close friend. This is definitely where the film suffers as it almost seems to be channeling a noir effect, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s style or tone at all. So while Herzog still has an eye for the strange and unusual, he might be losing a bit in his story constructions. But I can most definitely overlook this flaw to see an important film shining through.  8.75/10

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5 Responses to “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (Herzog, 2009)”

  1. I’ll definitely check this out — it’s been on my radar since it was released — and, now that one can stream it on netflix 🙂

  2. Well, he hasn’t made much drama-wise since the 80s — Fitzcarraldo (1982) — my favorite, Cobra Verde (1987), Invincible (2001), Wild Blue Yonder, Rescue Dawn, Port of call, so, yeah, I believe you — but, how does it compare to his great works?!? Fitcarraldo… Stroszek?

    Why do you think people really really really dislike it? It has 51% rottentomatoes…

    Sorry for all the questions. I’m just really curious…. I’ve hoped for a while for Herzog to return to form.

    • chrisfilm Says:

      Heh, yeah, I guess there really hasn’t been much since the 80s.

      This definitely isn’t up there with Fitzcarradlo, Agurrie, Stroszek, etc, but I think those days are long behind us. Herzog hasn’t lost his flare for the eccentric, but his storytelling technique is a bit off.

      I’m not sure why it’s been so poorly received by critics. I can understand a general audience not liking it as it’s very strange, but anyone who likes Herzog should have no problem liking this.

  3. I didn’t realize what the movie was about. I might give it a watch after all, but it sounds sad watching someone spiral like that.

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