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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

3.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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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

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • 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 (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003JOOTW4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,724 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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. My personal opinion is, that it is a great film done by two of my favorite directors, Warner Herzog and David Lynch. If you like anything from theses directors you will love this film.
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Format: DVD
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. I think the last of his movies I have less than an enthusiastic review to was The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser, and I saw that, what, ten years ago? (Actually, I looked it up--eight years ago, in August of 2005.) Man, I even defended, and strongly, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. But every streak must come to an end, and the architect of this one's demise is the 2009 film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?. (For the record: over the past ten years, I have seen nine Herzog films. This is the first to which I have given a below-average review.)

Supposedly based on a true story, the film tells us the tale of Brad Macallam (Michael Shannon, who like most of the cast stayed on with Herzog after BL:PoCNO wrapped to make this one), a man who seems to have gone insane during a recent trip to South America, and who just killed his mother (Twin Peaks' Grace Zabriskie) with a sword, taking the whole Stanislavsky thing a little too far (he's playing Orestes in a community-theater play). The bulk of the film is told in flashback, as detectives Havenhurst (Antichrist's Willem Dafoe) and Vargas (End of Watch's Michael Pena) try to piece together the events leading up to the murder by interviewing neighbors and tracking Brad, who left the scene before anyone realized he was the perp.
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Format: DVD
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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By Cosmoetica on February 1, 2013
Format: DVD
Shannon is pitch perfect with his madness, starting from a Peruvian kayaking trip he demurs from (the scene of the start of another of Herzog's great films on insanity, Aguirre: The Wrath Of God), which kills his friends, to his assumption of the name Farouk, to his belief that the face of God resides on an oatmeal container, to his calm bizarreness in general. Sevigny is excellent as the clueless and desperately lonely fiancée, while Kier delights as the agog friend- and Herzog makes ironic use of Kier's iconic stature as a horror film actor to rein him in to comment on assorted bizarre things he witnesses, such as the over the top scenes between Brad and his loony and racist ostrich farming uncle Ted (Brad Dourif), which ends in a classic `Herzog Moment' involving a dwarf. While Dourif chews scenery, it's perfectly apropos to the moment the film unhinges itself, and also given that we see this partly from Brad's POV. Other odd moments occur when we see Brad at Machu Picchu, in a Tibetan marketplace, and seeking to buy pillows for `the sick, in general, ` at a San Diego military hospital, and often these scenes, retrospectively, are seen as telegraphed earlier, but not in the ham-handed way a Steven Spielberg would do so. The film ends with Brad's surrender, and asking Havenhurst two questions: 1) could he put in his report that it was ostriches running, not flamingos, that were the birds involved, and 2) what happened to his basketball, which, in the film's final shot, we see a small boy pluck out of the branches of a tree.

Herzog's direction is flawless, and cameraman Peter Zeitlinger does his usual sparkling cinematography by making blasé San Diego seem feral.
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