BFI Flare 2024: Our Son (2023)

When Gabriel and Nicky’s marriage comes to a sudden end, they are soon locked in a tumultuous custody battle for their eight-year-old son Owen in director Bill Oliver’s moving divorce drama Our Son.

The time we spend together

by Chris Drew

Our Son

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Married couple Gabriel (Billy Porter, 80 for Brady) and Nicky (Luke Evans, Good Grief) live in Manhattan with their eight-year-old son Owen (Christopher Woodley, Good Egg), with former actor Gabriel fulfilling the role of house husband while Nicky has a successful career in publishing.

It’s clear straightaway that Gabriel is the more-paternal parent – he’s the one on time for Owen’s dance performance, the one who holds Owen’s hand walking home and the one who reads Owen’s bedtime stories. Nicky meanwhile seems somewhat distant and more focussed on work.

It’s somewhat unexpected, therefore, when it is Gabriel who reveals he has developed feelings for someone else and is seeing someone, news that comes as a huge surprise to Nicky.

Gabriel’s fling, however, soon goes awry as, after a passionate encounter, he announces to his lover that he will be leaving his marriage and is told that the feelings are not reciprocated. However, he proceeds to tell Nicky he has not been happy and wants a divorce.

As lawyers are employed, it is clear Gabriel will dedicate himself solely to Owen, especially while he is not working, while Nicky will rely heavily on a babysitter. As soon as it is revealed that Owen is biologically Nicky’s son, it is clear this will be used in the fight for custody.

Initially Gabriel is still staying in the marital home, while Nicky still wants him back, but an argument escalates, and Nicky asks Gabriel to leave.

Nicky and Owen have a Kramer vs Kramer-style scene about the breakfast routine but Our Son follows a different trajectory to the 1979 Best Picture winner as both parents are largely centred throughout.

To make Nicky a viable parental option, thus maintaining narrative tension, he is increasingly given more screen time in the second half. A trip with Owen to visit his family allows us to learn more about Nicky and he and Owen have a lovely moment together on the way back from a trip to Coney Island.

Of their splintered group of supportive friends, it is Nicky’s college friend Matthew (Andrew Rannells, A Simple Favor) who is most conflicted when Gabriel approaches him for work. Matthew knows he must get approval from Nicky with potential impact on custody proceedings if Gabriel is employed.

Before things can come to a head in court, Nicky has a major realisation causing many emotions on each side before things end on a bittersweet yet hopeful note.

As Gabriel, Porter gives a very tender and moving performance, while Evans – who spends much of the film with tears in his eyes – is effective in showing Nicky’s journey as he realises just how much his son means to him. The two stars duet on the original song over the credits ‘Always Be My Man’.

Alongside the leads, there is an excellent ensemble filling the smaller roles including Robin Weigert as Nicky’s attorney, Phylicia Rashad as Gabriel’s mother and Kate Burton as Nicky’s mother.

In one scene Nicky’s nephew makes the observation about how long his uncle has had to wait to marry only to divorce and that is success of Oliver’s film; gay marriages can crumble into complicated divorces in just the same way that straight marriages can.

Our Son screened at the 2024 BFI Flare Festival and is produced by Universal Pictures.

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