The latest Netflix wrinkle on that “Lifetime Original Movie” staple, “That’s not my baby,” is about man who makes that claim, an Argentinian artist who is on and off the wagon, and either on or off his rocker.
Yes, “The Son” is a horror film, but with subtle chills substituting for shrieks and freaks and blood. This is about the chilling realization that this foreigner you married may have swapped babies on you for purposes you cannot quite fathom, a belief no one else shares.
We find Lorenzo (Joaquín Furriel) and Sigrid (Heidi Toini) in their Buenos Aires bed, wrapping up the throes of making a baby.
He is older, a painter with passion. She is Norwegian, with a Ph.d in biology. He’s had children from a previous marriage and is laid back. She is…anal in the extreme, clinical, listing to her doctors (in Spanish, with English subtitles) the medicines she expects to be given in this “C-section happy” country. Sigrid had a miscarriage once, and she’s too smart to leave anything to chance this time.
She gives off a chill when they attend a cocktail party with Lorenzo’s old flame (Martina Gusmán) and agent (Luciano Cáceres ).
They joke, on meeting Sigrid, that the “old wolf hasn’t lost his teeth.” Lorenzo jokes back, “The wolf finally fell into the trap!” So maybe that’s the reason for Sigrid’s frosty Scandinavian standoffishness.
Renato and Juliette seem a bit taken aback by the baby plans, but still toast the Goya-obsessed Lorenzo’s big “comeback.”
Ah, but there are two threads to the story. We also follow Lorenzo, bruised and chastened, out of the jail cell that Juliette has freed him from. What put him here, who got hurt and what is this strange illness that the shrink we eventually meet calls “Capgras Syndrome?”
Something happened with the baby. Lorenzo doesn’t think it’s his. And as the EARLIER thread unfolds, with Sigrid acting more and more secretive, bringing in her old nanny (Regina Lamm) — who has the not-at-all-comforting name “Gudrun” — we start to ask questions ourselves.
Juliette may not be sold on her client’s claims — “I don’t know whether you went mental or back to drinking again!”
The judge isn’t listening to Lorenzo’s loud claims that “I’m NOT crazy!” The guy, covered in paint and a bit wild-eyed on a good day, isn’t the authority on his own sanity.
“That’s not for you to decide!”
Director Sebastian Schindel, working from Leonel D’Agostino’s script based on Guillermo Martínez’s novel, “The Protective Mother,” makes us see all this through Lorenzo’s eyes.
He spies Sigrid giving herself strange belly injections while she’s pregnant. He notes Gundun whipping up a bizarre liver smoothee, the baby’s food. He is kept from the child for most of the day. He sees mother and nanny home-treating the child’s fever when he thinks little Henrik — lost that argument, I see — needs to see a doctor.
And then there are the locked doors, the unusual new units (in his eyes) attached to the HVAC system in their timeworn Buenos Aires home.
Forget his cracks about his wife’s New Scandinavian cuisine. He smells something seriously fishy going on. A science experiment? Witchcraft? A Norwegian chapter of the “Midsomar” cult?
Schindel does a decent job of teasing out suspense, although movies like this almost always tilt one way in the “Is he mad, is everybody actually OUT to get him?” debate. Furriel sells, but doesn’t over-sell the mystery. Toini doesn’t have a subtle character to play, and thus our minds are made up for us about her.
There’s a bit of taking sides in the picture, with the production weighing things heavily for the Argentine man. “Damned icy Scandinavians and their herring” isn’t said out loud. But you can feel the culture clash subtext, and where the filmmaker’s sympathies lie.
The score is mostly strident “thriller” strings, with the police and jail scenes amusingly underscored by over-familiar (perhaps not in Argentina) “Law & Order” echoing percussion.
It all makes for a somewhat predictable thriller whose saving grace is its creepy tone, the lead performance and a tendency to go easy on the heavy-handedness.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex
Cast: Joaquín Furriel, Martina Gusman, Luciano Cáceres, Heido Toini, Regina Lamm
Credits: Directed by Sebastian Schindel, script by Leonel D’Agostino, based on a Guillermo Martínez novel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:32