Almost half of young people in Spain admit having had suicidal ideas in the last year. 56% have suffered mental health problems, although half of them did not ask for help, either for financial reasons or because they considered that it was not an important issue. These are data from a study by the FAD Fundación Juventud that make clear the importance of talking about mental health. A problem that, after the pandemic, has finally come into the focus of public opinion. Until recently, whoever went to a psychologist was seen as the odd one. Something is changing, and it shows that cinema also addresses this problem.
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The Son does it, the film with which Florian Zeller continues the trilogy that will adapt his plays and that began with the imposing The Father. Here he replaces Anthony Hopkins - who won the Oscar and here has a small and important role - for Hugh Jackman, who plays a successful lawyer who faces the mental health problems of the son he had with his previous partner, played by Laura Dern. Teenage mental health is at the heart of the film's conflict, which also addresses the inability of a generation of men to deal with it.
The film was presented at the Venice Festival, where it competes for the Golden Lion and where its protagonist, Hugh Jackman, spoke directly about the problem of mental health in young people. “The film shows how alone people feel, particularly when it comes to mental health issues. There is a shame, a guilt, and there is an attempt to want to fix those things," said the actor who believes that the "mental health problem is a crisis throughout the world and no one is immune."
Jackman confessed in a meeting with journalists that he is concerned about “the anxiety” that young people suffer, especially after the pandemic: “One in four adolescents in Australia has thought of taking their own life in the last year. It is a generation that is suffering a lot, and perhaps it is difficult for mine to understand, because we have had different experiences. A film that was born, according to his director, from a desire to “open the conversation on these issues without judging the characters”. "We wanted people to experience what it means to feel like you have no power over the situation, that you don't know what to do, a feeling that is also part of being a parent," added Zeller.
Jackman was so moved by The Father that when he heard that Florian Zeller was preparing to adapt The Son, he read the play and wrote him a letter saying that he would love to be the lead. The director was surprised by the actor's courage, and after a few meetings he saw that they both felt the same passion for the project, and that together they could achieve "something that had an impact and had a lot of truth". “I had the intuition and I think it is the best decision I could make. Hugh Jackman is a professional, he is like a very technical dancer who wants to control everything. And this story is about a man who loses control, so the idea was to put us all in a situation where we couldn't control things. That's why I made the decision not to rehearse and jump into the unknown and discover on set the emotions that came to us and try to catch them, embrace them and share them with the public.
One in four teenagers in Australia have thought about taking their own life in the last year. It is a generation that is suffering a lot, and perhaps it is difficult for mine to understand
The actor says he's not normally so passionate about landing a role, but this one was special, he had "the instinct" to do it. It has been the most intense role of his life, the most important challenge. A project that came with COVID and came together with a difficult personal moment for him. “My wife and I were very nervous and we didn't go out or do anything. And I remember that a few times in the process of preparing the film I had trouble sleeping. I don't think I admitted it at the time, but I was falling apart a little bit at times. And I'm sure this was parallel to what I was going through. My father died during filming, so it was a very intense period for me, and I am very grateful that I had a friend and a director to rely on.”
A project in which the actor undertakes one of his most dramatic and serious roles, far from his profile as an action hero or musical actor, a film that reminds him why he decided to be an actor: "It was to grow as a person, I they are more interested in the big questions of life than the idea of being famous or successful”.