An Austrian/Hungarian/German co-production, Tender Son may be based on a neat idea but the execution is fatally flawed.
Based on the second half of Mary Shelley’s classic, where the monster is coming to terms with his own existence and seeking his creator, the “monster” here is a maladjusted young man, given up for adoption as a baby and now looking to reconnect with his parents. At odds with everything he sees and everyone he encounters, it isn’t long before he turns violent and sinks deeper into his isolation.
Unfortunately the film is far too slow. In the opening scenes director Kornel Mundruczo’s stately pacing works very well. The photography is often beautiful, and the placement of his camera and general composition of the shots set the tone brilliantly. But when it becomes clear that every scene will be shot that way, all that hard work is undone. Mundruczo spends so long getting from point A to point B it would be laughable if it were not so dull. Crucial moments are robbed of all dramatic tension and impetus. Shots that are so handsome they should be a joy to watch simply bore. There’s nothing to differentiate a quiet conversation or a murder or a car crash. The almost total lack of a score does not help keep things interesting.
Languid cinema is something wonderful when done well. Bruno Dumont can do this. He can film someone walking across a room for three minutes and opening a door and make it positively hypnotic. Here it just feels like filler to pad out the runtime and to delay the next plot point. It reminds me of a mindless actioner that moves at breakneck speed with non-stop car chases and explosions. That quickly gets desperately tedious, and Tender Son manages to achieve the same result with polar opposite techniques.
By no means without merit, but even at a pretty scant 105 minutes it is quite the endurance test.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writers: Kornél Mundruczó (screenplay), Mary Shelley (novel)
Stars: Rudolf Frecska, Lili Monori, Kornél Mundruczó
Country: Hungary, Germany, Austria