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

Michael Shannon , Willem Dafoe , Werner Herzog  |  R |  DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: First Look Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 14, 2010
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003JOOTW4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,853 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

The film takes place in Southern California, the story comes from an actual case, and the cast includes Willem Dafoe and Grace Zabriskie. It sounds like a David Lynch picture, except it isn't. Instead Lynch produced, while Werner Herzog directed. If Bad Lieutenant was Herzog's swamp noir, My Son, My Son is his desert noir. In another Lynchian touch, two cops (Dafoe and Michael Peña) provide entry into the San Diego-set story. Called to the scene of a murder, they meet actor Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon), who utters "Razzle dazzle" as they enter the flamingo-pink ranch house to find Mrs. McCullum (Zabriskie), dead by sword. Before Brad's fiancée, Ingrid (Chloë Sevigny), arrives, Herzog flashes back to Brad's days in Peru, where he found his "inner voice." The flashbacks continue to his participation in the famously matricidal Oresteia (Udo Kier plays the director). Combined with Ernst Reijseger's off-kilter score and Peter Zeitlinger's sun-bleached cinematography, it all exerts a certain queasy fascination, but Herzog's "whydunit" never really takes flight. Unlike Nicolas Cage's loopy lieutenant, Shannon invests Brad with a more recessive quality, which gives his madman greater credibility--at the expense of empathy. And yet… there's a scene with Shannon, Brad Dourif, and a tiny man in a tuxedo that offers the sort of what-the-heck magic that makes even the lesser films of Herzog and Lynch more interesting than most. Fortunately, there are enough of those moments to make the movie worthwhile, though not quite the messed-up masterpiece it might've been. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Product Description

The first collaboration between legendary filmmakers David Lynch and Werner Herzog, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is loosely based on the mysterious true crime story of a young stage actor who, obsessed with a Greek tragedy he's rehearsing, slays his own mother with a sword. Academy Award-Nominees Michael Shannon, Chloë Sevigny, and Willem Dafoe headline this psychological thriller written and directed by Herzog, produced by Lynch, and featuring Grace Zabriskie, Udo Kier, and Brad Dourif.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a little research up-front ... May 15, 2011
Format:Amazon Instant Video
The film is based on the 1979 murder by Mark Yavorsky of his mother. I only vaguely remember this San Diego case, so I did a quick 'google' on Yavorsky, and easily found some background that made this movie much richer for me. It really is a bit of a Greek tragedy, as Yavorsky clearly was a very talented young man (basketball star, poet, writer, actor) who slowly descended into acute psychosis -- which, apparently, no one did very much about. And he really was playing Orestes (Greek for, 'a man who can conquer mountains,' a fact subtly used in the movie) in a USD production. And Orestes, of course, is best known for ... murdering his mother.

It's not that the movie doesn't tell Yavorsky's story well -- I think Herzog did as well as anyone could; it's just that I think I 'got' some of the nuance a bit better after reading some of the old news articles out there. Also interesting, I thought, is that the screenwriter, Herbert Golder, actually interviewed Yavorsky a few times. (Yavorsky was found innocent by reason of insanity, probably the right call, and served many years in a mental health facility).

David Lynch produced the movie, but this is not a "Lynch" movie, as he never set foot on the set nor contributed to the script. This time, the midget and pink flamingos belong wholly to Werner Herzog.

The acting and production values are great, as one would expect. All in all, a very good film, and highly recommended.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
In 2009, Werner Herzog delivered a stunning one-two punch with "Port of Call New Orleans" and this movie. I would rank "My Son, My Son" right up there with "Aguirre" in the Herzog canon. If you're looking for standard conventional Hollywood product, avoid this one. If you're looking for something that will keep you fascinated, confused, and thrilled by its originality, see it ASAP. As a portrait of insanity, "My Son, My Son" throws Hollywood's standard treatment of the subject in the wastebasket: You're never given an "explanation" for the main character Brad's descent into insanity, and he doesn't come off as a merely normal guy with some problems (let's face it, Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" is the most RATIONAL paranoid schizophrenic in the history of mankind!). I see and hear mentally ill individuals at the bus stop nearly every day, and their words make just as little sense as Brad's. This is a powerful, compelling, and sadly overlooked masterwork.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of weirdness and things unexplained November 8, 2010
By Viva
Format:Amazon Instant Video
Herzog and Lynch team up for this very strange story of a troubled man who spends time in Peru and comes back different--though this is never really explained. The guy is the lead in a Greek play and ends up wanting to kill just as his character does, except he does it for real. Much time is spent with the police talking to the play's director and the man's fiancee to try to understand why he did it.

Oh, and there are lots of flamingoes. And ostriches. And a basketball.

Odd, and has an interesting and offbeat soundtrack, but I don't really think I would recommend it overall.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
To appreciate this movie, you need to understand the point of its weirdness. I think David Foster Wallace said it best when describing another David Lynch film, Blue Velvet:

"Blue Velvet captured something crucial about the way the U.S. present acted upon our nerve endings, something crucial that couldn't be analyzed or reduced to a system of codes or aesthetic principles or workshop techniques. The movie helped me realize that first-rate experimentalism is a way not to 'transcend' or 'rebel against' the truth but actually to *honor* it. It brought home that the very most important artistic communications take place at a level that not only isn't intellectual but isn't even fully conscious, that the unconscious's true medium isn't verbal but imagistic, and that whether the images are Realistic or Postmodern or Expressionistic or Surreal or what-the-hell-ever is less important than whether they feel true, whether they ring psychic cherries in the communicatee."

The important question is whether it succeeds at ringing psychic cherries. I can't speak for you, but for me the scene (beginning around the 20th minute) where Ingrid is trying to "straighten" the bed, and Brad comes and sits on it and wants to play music for her, and the mom barges in with brownies, "I'm just so happy for you both. ... Brad, can't you see that Ingrid is trying to straighten the bed?", the momentary look back before she leaves, "can't she ever knock?", and then she barges in again a few moments later, this time with wine, and then the prolonged, eerily-adoring stare--hoo boy that was one of the creepiest and realest and most magical scenes I've seen.

You cannot watch this as a normal movie, expecting clear answers, logic, or even linearity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough substance October 28, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like Michael Shannon being totally crazypants insane but the movie was just boring in its set-up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "My God, My God What Did I Just Watch" September 1, 2013
By Ron
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
Brad (Michael Shannon) is by all accounts a Mama's Boy who never left his controling (grief stricken from the loss of her husban some 20 to 30 years ago) mothers (Grace Zabriskie) nest. Shannon does a good job playing the odd and off balanced son as he is either drawn to or typecast for this type of role. His size and his looks are a perfect fit for this role as an unstable actor who's life is imitating his onstage role as Orestes in a Greek play. I found this movie every bit as strange as the true story its based on. I enjoyed watching the methods that Detective Havenhurst (Willem Defoe) was using to to try and understand Brad's mindsets and if possible to defuse the standoff without anyone getting hurt. The approach and the methods he used to interview Brad's friends, coworkers and neighbors I thought was the best part of the movie. For me the good acting by the primary cast was not enough to compensate for the story and the direction. I'm not sure if the writer/director was trying to hard to tell the story through the eyes and mind of Brad or what, but whatever the approach they were taking it just came across as a weird artistic attempt at telling this sad and tragic story. There was just to many little quirky side stories that had little relevence to the main story while other parts that involved Brad's behavior were beaten over and over into the story. I felt at times like the writer/director didn't think that the viewer got the message that Brad was troubled so we had to endure a repetition of scenes identifying some of Brad's issues. I hope that I haven't given to much of the story away for those who want to give this one a watch or that I was to vague and this was of little help. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Published 19 days ago by Robert Strecker
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay...but not my favorite
I ordered this film via my Amazon Prime streaming video account to review for my website Read more
Published 4 months ago by CherylDiana
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good in my opinion
I thought the actors were terrific...I realized while watching the mom though that I act like that with my daughter lol ..:( and will definitely work on that immediately! Read more
Published 5 months ago by tahme
2.0 out of 5 stars My Son, Ny Son, What Have Ye Done
OK not to happy with this movie, took to olongto get to the plot.. (WAS THER ONE) Who knows I fell asleep 3 times watching it!
Published 9 months ago by Anthony
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
I was satisfied with the product. I recommend it without hesitation. Worth ordering. Very affordable. Would order again. Good value.
Published 12 months ago by Penny Gursky
1.0 out of 5 stars Another failed attempt at story telling
The problem with Werner Herzog since he moved to the US is that he has tried to adapt to standard story telling film making after a long absence from anything like it (Berg's play... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Carlos Icaza Estrada
2.0 out of 5 stars Stanislamesky.
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (Werner Herzog, 2009)

I have spent years singing Werner Herzog's praises every time I see one of his movies. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Robert Beveridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie at a great price!
I was very pleased at how reasonably priced this DVD was. It was a great find! If you want to know more about the movie go to IMDB and look it up. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Carly
4.0 out of 5 stars In the absence of an actual Lynch film...Herzog.
This is a very hard film for most people to swallow, although a lot of people have liked it. It is a Lynch film, but it is directed by Werner Herzog. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars disorienting, sad and well done
Much better than the cover and the back of the case lead you to believe. I was pleasantly surprised in this random movie viewing as I expected it to be somewhat poor but it was... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. Joe Newman
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