Whenever you can pair together two brilliant dramatic actors, you should go for it. In the case of Our Son, a new drama premiering at Tribeca 2023, director Bill Oliver pairs up Billy Porter and Luke Evans. Despite the talent leading the way, Our Son features a missed connection, with Evans and Porter struggling to deliver a believable relationship. Without this clicking into place, the rest of the story struggles to maximize its potential.
Gabriel (Porter) and Nicky (Evans) have a happy life. Their son Owen (Christopher Woodly) succeeds in school and loves his parents. However, their perfect life crumbles when Gabriel admits he’s having an affair. Soon, Gabriel and Nicky begin to fight for the love and custody of their son.
While Porter and Evans independently give good performances, it’s hard to imagine these two characters would be blinded to the issues in their relationship. Both are not only smart, but they have high emotional intelligence. Yet when Porter and Evans pair up, there’s a giant block between the two of them. The lack of chemistry seems to indicate the divorce was inevitable, but it’s played to such an extreme we question why they ever would have been together in the first place.
Additionally, the story becomes somewhat hackneyed as it progresses. We wander into basic storytelling beats, and we rarely (if ever) are surprised by the events. The couple fights, the couple argues, and the couple eventually puts aside their differences. Our Son wishes to join the storied history of divorce films, but in this case, it’s hard to agree with the internal logic of the characters. The actions of each lead do not necessarily make sense from an overly-emotional perspective or a logical one.
The other issue facing Our Son might be the star-studded cast. Side characters are played by Andrew Rannells, Robin Weigert, Kate Burton, and Phylicia Rashard. While they’re impressive on the margins, they also distract from the exploration of our characters Instead, they deliver monologues and explanations to our protagonists. Neither Gabriel nor Nicky grows naturally, they are simply told to act a certain way until they agree to act on the exposition delivered at them. This also makes it difficult for any of the performers to own their character, as they become exposition machines.
It’s a shame because no one is bad, and the direction finds some brilliant quiet moments with both Evans and Porter. However, when the primary relationship does not make sense. The writing leads us down frustrating paths, and we do not feel the emotion Our Son should elicit. Instead, it feels like a missed opportunity.