Luke Evans and Billy Porter deliver powerful performances in writer-director Bill Oliver’s gay divorce drama Our Son. Bringing to mind classics like Kramer vs Kramer and the more recent Marriage Story, Our Son adds the well-observed specificity of middle-class gay city life into the fraught mix.
Gabriel (Porter) and Nicky (Evans) have a seemingly picture perfect marriage. Nicky is a successful publisher, while Gabriel has let go of his acting career to be a stay-at-home dad to their son Owen (Christopher Woodley). It’s clear that they’ve settled into a familiar pattern where Gabriel is the primary caregiver and Nicky is the breadwinner. But Nicky is often distant, leaving Gabriel to feel like he’s parenting alone. After a night out with friends, Gabriel confesses that he’s met someone else, and it’s serious.
Thus begins the familiar divorce drama arc: couples therapy; promises to try harder; and eventually lawyers and acrimony. None of this is particularly new ground cinematically, but Oliver roots the narrative in realistic elements of a gay marriage. Gabriel and Nicky’s friends are a diverse mix—including older gay, Ian (Tony-nominee David Pittu)—who offer a variety of reactions to the breakup. Matthew (Andrew Rannells) gets most of the best lines, like “When Owen was born, Gabe fell in love with him and you fell by the wayside”, and, “If it hadn’t been so sweet, it would have been tragic… And now it is tragic.” To Rannells’ and Oliver’s credit the potential for camp is reigned in as this dialogue is delivered.
It’s when the story pivots in the third act that things start to take on new life. With Gabriel returning to the workforce and Nicky reentering the dating scene, both face unexpected realizations. It’s here that Evans really steps into his own in the role and demonstrates what an excellent actor he is.
Our Son’s biggest flaw is that it is almost too handsomely presented. The rough edges of what’s playing out in the narrative give way to a cinematic smoothness and gloss. When there are tears, they are pretty tears, beautifully lit. When Gabriel calls his mother for some moral support, she’s played (in a great cameo) by the legendary Phylicia Rashad. It’s that kind of movie.
Your enjoyment of Our Son will likely simply come down to how much you enjoy relationship dramas. While its familiarity will be too much for some viewers, I enjoyed watching Porter and Evans—perfectly framed—as they fought back the tears of anger and love in the best traditions of movie breakups.
By Chad Armstrong
Opens in select US theaters on Friday, December 8th and releases on VOD Friday, December 15th, 2023. Our Son received its Australian Premiere at the 33rd Melbourne Queer Film Festival on Sunday, November 19th, 2023.