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The Good Son (1993)

Directed by Joseph Ruben Written by Ian McEwan

  Right away I can tell Mark (Elijah Wood) is an only child as he plays Soccer. All you hear are the other kids asking to pass the ball and while he doesn’t, ends up making a goal either way. Seeing his father approach from a distance, he seems one step ahead already and his demeanor changes. They soon arrive at the hospital as Mark enters his mother’s room to say his goodbyes, convinced she would come back to him in some other form. After the funeral, Mark’s father Jack (David Morse) is talked into attending a business trip that could mean never having to leave his son again; you know, besides his current time of need. The trip consisting of two weeks (during Winter break) and it already decided Mark would stay with his Aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson) and Uncle Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly).

  It seems ten years had passed since seeing their nephew and while introductions are had, cousin Henry’s (Macaulay Culkin) is saved for last. His antics beginning at dinner when kicking Mark under the table and playing it off as being friendly. After telling his father goodbye he begins tagging along with his cousin, who seems to be giving questionable glares to his grief-stricken relative. While Henry’s sister Connie (Quinn Culkin; yup, his real one) watched on, the two climbed to his treehouse when Mark slipped and is asked if let go of, if he thought he’d be able to fly. While certainly suspicious at this point, the two seem to continue spending time with one another. Henry holding many secrets from his parents, the first of which discovered being his apparent smoking habit. Speaking with Mark about his mother’s death and mentioning how his younger brother Richard had drowned, choosing to see it from a scientific approach and how many spoke of death as something personal. Whether testing Mark or simply seeing how much he could get away with, the next day proving to be just as eventful. Going down to the docks, they end up running for their lives when chased by a dog, Henry mocking the animal after barely escaping.

  While keeping a face that would suggest far different, it seems Henry had entirely too much time on his hands as he shows off what had taken him months to make. Somewhere in between a gun and cross-bow, he takes his cousin for an adventure after finally getting the sight just right. Retreating back to the dock, “only trying to scare him” turns into the two carrying and “burying” the dog down a well to get rid of the evidence. The last straw (finally) coming when Henry decides to take yet another creation, Mr. Highway, off on another journey and flinging it onto the street causing a catastrophic disaster with cars piling up and slamming into one another. A suggestion of having a therapist speak with Mark is briefly touched upon, saying very little. Speaking later on the possibility of evil existing and is taken as Mark blaming himself for his mother’s death (some therapist). The more time spent with his Aunt, the more he believed her to be his mother finding that way to reconnect. The relationship taking a full turn between the boys when Connie enters their room to inquiry about something and receives a cruel gesture from her brother with Mark taking a stand for her.

  Susan and Wallace having a discussion during dinner one night about changing Richard’s room which was started looking more like a museum. Unable to continue the discussion, which clearly upset her, they decide to go out and entrust that the children could take care of themselves while out. The next day letting Connie go off with Henry to the ice rink and an incident occurring that ends up hospitalizing her. Though Mark did try to speak on behalf on the things going awry around the house, a slap is all that’s returned at the thought alone being absurd. Henry doing his best to put inside everyone’s head of Mark hurting and taking out things on those around him; oh he’s good. Which wasn’t all that hard due to the paranoid thoughts invading Mark’s mind and as a means to save his family, begins dumping out food thinking it had been poisoned. Susan lastly looking in Henry’s shed and finding a rubber duck that she had been looking for that belonged to Richard. Her son stating it had been his first and fighting for it, taking it to the well and tossing it with the rest of his secrets. A last conflict taking place near a cliff she often reflected at ending in a choice between saving her son’s life or her innocent nephews.

  Now you can certainly say what you will about Macaulay Culkin, but he was one hell of a child Actor. Not as a means to take away from Elijah Wood, they both showed such promise at a young age and were great at creating the animosity between one another for the film. Perhaps, as unfortunate as Culkin’s personal life was, it only helped fuel his performance on set. They both rehearsed 6 weeks prior to filming and performed their own stunts as with certain camera angles, would be impossible to have any other way. Originally set to be filmed in 1988, was delayed for several reasons including lack of funding, two other castings for a lead role and a change of director after conflict with Culkin’s father ensued. The great dynamic between the two boys being the insanity factor Henry constantly pleaded. The beauty being as long as he maintained his harsh convictions, that others would gladly condemn what they failed to investigate.

  The role of the two boys written and executed so well that it seemed the two prominent adults couldn’t keep up and their character’s logic completely out of whack. While I would never pretend to know what it feels like to lose a child, I have witnessed a relative in a similar situation and know firsthand how a mother can mourn. Her child having accidentally drowned while leaving him alone in the tub to check on something else. Why that seemed like a good idea to begin with being beyond me. What’s more was that she had a complete disregard for anything her other two children did so, should she have been as surprised at the outcomes that followed? Her son had an entire shed devoted to his wrongdoings and only sparked a curiosity after Mark pleaded with her to look into the matter. At that, with such an allegation, why wouldn’t you at least help an as well mourning son who could relate to Susan in that aspect. After the pond incident especially; Henry sneaks into the hospital to “check up” on his sister…in the middle of the night! So not only was his father not with him and this entire situation not seeming odd, but is simply told she’d meet him back at home. Do you want something to happen to them?! Perhaps if more time was spent involved then accidents wouldn’t happen. Crazy, I know. As far as her choice at the end, choosing the lesser of two evils may have seemed easy enough but to still let go of your child…now there’s some guts. Not saying it was a wrong choice but at least she took some time to “think” on the situation, perhaps giving Henry the only freedom he would ever know.

Mad Fact: The film was not released in the UK until 1995 when it went straight to video. The reason being a case involving a 2-year-old who was abducted by two 10-year-olds and tortured and killed before his third birthday.