It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: Their child has gone missing.

Father Julien Perrin (Guillaume Canet) races home to his estranged ex-wife (Mélanie Laurent) and her new beau (Olivier de Benoist). There, the police greet him, show him the camp from where his son was kidnapped, and shrug their shoulders. There are no leads to follow, no suspects to question.

Perrin suspects everyone. He has put career before family, and it put an irreparable strain and his marriage and his wife’s well-being. It’s eaten away at him too, and you can see it in his face—a knot of nerves and clenched muscles. He never relaxes and probably never has. When Perrin leaps into action and goes searching for his son, it’s no surprise he does so with fists and blunt objects.

Directed by Christian Carion (who co-wrote the script with Laure Irrmann), My Son (Mon garçon) is a taut thriller that is less thrill and more dread. The suspense lies not in Perrin’s ability to find his son but what Perrin will have to do along the way. Cinematographer Eric Dumont captures this quest with cold detachment, robbing Perrin of heroic imagery or sympathetic lighting. At one point, the police begin to suspect Perrin’s motivations and capabilities for aggression. Dumont’s camera has suspected the same since image one.

My Son is blissfully brief, clocking in at a lean 84 minutes, but the movie does little with brevity. Like Perrin’s quest, the movie bluntly bashes its way through the snow-covered French countryside in a relentless pursuit toward the end. Like Perrin, you desperately want to get to the happy ending—or as happy as a story like this can get. But, once you get there, you can’t help but wonder: Is that all there is?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Directed by Christian Carion
Written by Christian Carion, Laure Irrmann
Produced by Philip Boëffard, Christophe Rossignon
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Mélanie Laurent, Olivier de Benoist
Cohen Media Group, Rated R, Running time 84 minutes, Opens May 24, 2019