Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Tense, poignant and very topical, Mohamed Ben Attia’s film is the story of an ordinary family—or so it seems at first. Riadh (Mohamed Dhrif) is a Tunisian dockworker approaching retirement. His marriage to Nazli (Mouna Mejri) is not without its problems, and their son Sami (Zakaria Ben Ayed) suffers from migraines. Overall, though, things could be worse—and soon enough they are. Sami has a dark secret, one his parents only uncover once it’s too late. Faced with his son’s disappearance, Riadh embarks on a journey to Syria, risking his very life out of love and desperation.
Ben Attia, whose masterful Hedi (VIFF 16) took the pulse of his native Tunisia, now casts a wider net, confronting Islamic terrorism and its transnational reach. There are no bombings or beheadings here; the only horror we’re witness to is psychological. The parents’ grief is all the more terrible for being wedded to mystery: they’ve lost their son’s presence, and they may lose him to death, perhaps without ever knowing. Dear Son is a family drama with the tension of a thriller; it takes you gently by the hand and leads you into the realm of fear.
"Deeply moving… remarkable for the quietness of its approach, its rich, calm, generous characterizations, and the compassion it evokes for extremism’s more indirect victims."—Jessica Kiang, Variety