Film Review: OUR SON (directed by Bill Oliver)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on June 21, 2023

in Film,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-New York


In the new film Our Son, Gabriel (Billy Porter) and Nicky (Luke Evans) have been together for thirteen years. Married once gay marriage was legalized in the U.S., they also share an eight-year old son born via surrogate. Nicky is the biological father and the egg donor is his good friend from college. However, Gabriel is the stay-at-home dad and primary caregiver to their child. Meanwhile, Nicky is a successful book publisher who works very hard to provide for the family’s very nice existence in the Ft. Green section of Brooklyn. While the relationship has had its open periods, they are currently monogamous. However, when Gabriel’s current affair is discovered, the couple fights and Gabriel files for divorce, leading to a contentious battle for custody.

There’s much to enjoy in screenwriters Peter Nickowitz and Bill Oliver’s gay visit to the custody battle genre. At one point, Nicky’s teenage nephew inadvertently blurts something to the effect of, “It must be weird to fight for gay marriage only to end up with gay divorce”. And the film is mostly interested in that divorce and jumps to it very quickly without much setup as to why Gabriel wants out. And it’s those generalized, broad strokes of story that sometimes make the film feel more like a Lifetime Original Movie than a nuanced exploration of a couple in breakdown. Also, for a gay male couple, their characterizations are surprisingly, stereotypically heterosexual. Nicky is very handsome, works too much, is emotionally shut down, of few words and a bit oblivious. Gabriel doesn’t work, does yoga and centers his life around his son. He’s also quick to tears and yells out generalized, emotionally loaded accusations without specifics. Where’s Meredith Baxter-Birney when you need her?

Still, Oliver’s solid direction paints an authentic, if a bit rosy, portrait of upper-middle class gay life. There’s a warm circle of friends and the depiction of relationships with families-of-origin and exes rings true. As Nicky, Luke Evans is very moving as a man whose stable life falls apart around him, forcing him to finally look at himself. As Gabriel, Billy Porter is touching as a parent and househusband but his tendency towards big emotions can be distracting. Also, director Oliver portrays gay, male intimacy in a realistic, tender and sexy way, which is a treat to see onscreen.

What makes a parent? Time spent? Money spent? Neither? Both? Our Son attempts to answer those questions in a way that transcends sexual preference and looks at what is most important – the love between human beings. Even when they’re parents.

world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
plays Frameline Film Festival on June 24, 2023 5:45 Castro Theatre

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