Mon Fils a Moi – a shocking picture of a toxic mother

Already in the first scene of the movie, we see that something tragic has happened. There is a police car and an ambulance in front of the house. The road was closed with police tape. A group of policemen is discussing something intently. Passers-by stop on the sidewalk. They watch as paramedics carry someone on a stretcher out of the house. No one knows who is the person or what happened to her. Is the man on the stretcher alive or dead? The ambulance leaves.

The movie „Mon fils a moi” (My son) directed by Martial Fougero is a shocking portrait of a toxic mother, an analysis of the impact of her psychopathic nature on the fate of the whole family, and above all, on her adolescent son 12-year-old Julian.

In the following scenes, we delve into the everyday life of the family. We see that the relationship between the mother and the son is a special one – Julian is her darling. All her attention is focused on him. However, this relationship between mother and son seems to have a diathesis. An attentive viewer will quickly notice in it small nuances, which from the beginning arouse some psychological discomfort.

Julian and Susan (fot: STUDIOCANAL)

We see Julian getting a small car as a gift from his mother. This is not a good souvenir for a 12-year-old. The boy tries to hide his disappointment. He pretends to be pleased and grateful. He acts this way because he knows that’s what his mother expects of him. He doesn’t want to offend her. It is her contentment and satisfaction that is always the most important in this house – even when she gives him a gift. Any gift from the mother is also a bribe. Only from her can Julian get something. Very rarely has an opportunity to choose and buy anything he really likes. So he has to try very hard not to make her angry.

In one of the next scenes, we see the boy coming back from the bath. With a towel around his waist enters his room. Takes off the towel to put on the underpants. At that moment, the mother enters the room. Julian ashamed covers his genitals with his hands, which clearly irritates her. With a verbal reprimand, his mother forces him to lower his hands and expose himself. „You have nothing to be ashamed of, you’re too young” explains. Even though Julian is at least 12 years old his mother still treats him as if he was 5. Every action of the boy requires her approval. Nothing that Julian does may happen without her knowledge and acceptance. Once a month, Julian gets symbolic pocket money. But only when she thinks he deserved it. The main criterion is his submission to her expectations.

In his everyday life, Julian has no influence on anything. She decides about each, even the smallest detail of his existence. He only can wear the clothes she has chosen and bought for him. Only she has the right to rearrange the furniture in his room and it depends only on her how every detail of the room’s decor will look like. For everything Julian gets from her, he is to be grateful to her like a dog. Neither colleagues visit Julian at home. The boy meets his girlfriend secretly at his grandmother’s house (on his mother’s side), a warm and empathetic person who is the complete opposite of his mother. Julian likes her very much. Grandma gives her grandson piano lessons. Communing with this instrument gives the boy great pleasure, at the same time it allows him to partially relieve stress. He also has a piano at home, in his room.

The father is a completely absent figure in this family. He plays the role of home decoration. Mentally castrated by his wife, he is at most an echo of her decision. The kids can’t count on him. When they seek his support during conflicts with the mother, he always stands by his wife. Obedient, silent, almost invisible. Although physically he is a man of considerable stature, clearly overweight. He awkwardly asks his wife for carnal love, but she rejects him. At every opportunity, she makes it clear that finds him unattractive. Interestingly, he is the only one who works and earns a living for this family. He is an academic lecturer. She takes care of the house and is „raising” the children. After returning from work, the father usually disappears for the whole evening. He changes into a sports outfit, takes his tennis racket, and announces that he is going to play tennis with his friends. When Julian asks if he could go with him, the father refuses. It is explained that he will be there only in the company of adult men, his colleagues. By chance, Julian discovers that his father is playing the court alone. His only opponent is the wall. There are not any „friends” with him. When he talks about his exploits on the court over dinner, he makes it all up.

At supper, the mother notices that Julian is wearing a new shirt. But this is none of the shirts she bought him. She tries to find out where her son got it from. His pocket money is too meager to buy one. Anyway, this month Julian didn’t get pocket money because of punishment. The boy admits that he bought the shirt at a thrift store. With the money, he had left over from last month. The mother orders him to take the shirt back to the store the next day and pick up the money back. „It’s impossible” – Julian knows that the thrift store doesn’t accept complaints. „That’s your problem,” says the mother. „Now take it off immediately and put on something decent,” she orders. „That blue is hideous. What hopeless taste you have,” he comments on his son’s choice. Julian looks at his father, hoping that he will side with him, but the father remains silent as usual. In the end, he confirms her wife’s opinion. Her opinion and taste are the most important in this house. The boy likes the shirt, he likes the blue color. His grandmother knows this and buys her grandson a blue sweater as a gift. Julian is delighted with it. Fearing that his mother would take away the gift from his grandmother, Julian hides his sweater into the piano. He’ll never be able to officially wear it anyway.

Each subsequent minute of the film scares the viewer more and more with the horror of Julian’s situation. The individual shots are almost a direct book listing of characteristic features of a toxic mother. We wonder how much longer the growing boy will be able to bear these mental loads?! Was it Julian that the paramedics carried out of the house in the first scene of the movie?

The boy was brought up in such a way that he couldn’t say no to his mother. Every request must be fulfilled. And this psychopathic woman, guided by morbid jealousy for her son, tries to fill his whole world. She decided that the next Sunday takes her son to the swimming pool. Julian has had enough of her company He’s trying to find an excuse not to go there. He says his football team is having practice at the moment. They are preparing for important games. „I have to be there! I can’t let my friends down,” he explains.

„What’s more important to you, a game with your friends or going to the pool with your mom?” The mother tries to blackmail him emotionally. She urges him to cheat on his coach and not go to practice. „He won’t believe me that swimming with my mom is more important to me,” Julian replies sheepishly. „Do you want me to lie?”

„Sometimes it’s better to hide the truth than hurt someone,” – the mother continues manipulating him. Finally, she forces him to accept the pool. Satisfied with her success, she asks flirtatiously – „Maybe the two of us will play football now?” They go and play football. Observing the mother’s obsessive struggle for permanent power over her son, we often get the impression that her behavior has definitely gone beyond the limits of a toxic character and already meets all the criteria of mental illness.

The toxicity of the main character’s character made the whole family a typical closed family. Each of its members struggles with loneliness in their way. No acquaintances, no friends. No one comes to their house, not even the grandma. Closed families are almost always the ones with a hidden problem. The toxic nature of one of the parents (or both), addiction to alcohol or drugs, sexual violence – these are the factors that always stand in the background of self-isolation of such a family. Closing off from the outside world is supposed to prevent the family secret from getting out beyond the circle of its closest members.

It seems that Julian’s older sister, Susann, was not subject to mobbing by her mother to such an extent. Toxic mothers tend to focus their attention and affection on their sons. Susann is worried about her brother – „he has lost his appetite, cries at night” – and tries to talk to her mother about his poor mental state. The irritated mother does not want to listen to her. The father also ignores Susann, blaming Julian’s malaise on his age and the problems of adolescence.

Eventually, however, he finds the courage to talk to his wife about Julian. „You say the same as Susanna says. Julian is fine. Susann is the one something is wrong with,” she replies, annoyed. “We have to send her to work,” she adds. “Sending her to college was a bad idea. She’s not very smart. It was your idea. You’ve always been a bit arrogant. You want everyone to be like you.” As a result, they decided that for the period of exams, Susann would live in a boarding school.

Julian is falling behind in his studies. His results are catastrophic. The teacher at school does not understand what is happening to the boy. He didn’t do half of his homework. Once he does something, it’s off-topic. The teacher was unable to indicate the reasons for this metamorphosis. „It is nothing of what is usually hiding behind such a transformation.” The mother has a serious conversation with her son. She accuses him of doing all this to make her worry. „Do you want me to get sick?” – as usual, she tries to blackmail him emotionally. As punishment, he imposes strict rigor on his son. He has to go back home immediately after school. No more piano lessons. No walks, no TV, no matches. And, of course, no more visits to the grandma.

Taking letters out of the mailbox, the mother notices that one of them is for Julian. She opens the letter and reads it. It’s from Julian’s girlfriend. In the wildest thoughts, she didn’t suspect that her son might have a girlfriend. She is stunned and devastated by this discovery. Julian is not just hers anymore. She can’t come to terms with it. She asks Susan if she knows that her brother has a girlfriend. Susan denies. After Julian’s return from school, she notices that her son in conspiracy, for the first time in his life, has shaved off the fluff under his nose and on his cheeks. Every sign of Julian growing up makes her panic. It means the inevitably approaching prospect of losing full power over the son. Her son is her whole life. If he loses him, what will she fill that void with? In her eyes, Julian is still tiny and requires her motherly care and attention. The boy reveals the razor he received as a gift from his grandmother.

Meanwhile, Susanna informs Julian that her mother has taken over the letter from his girlfriend. Julian finds the torn letter in a wastebasket and puts it back together at night. He reads the content.

Julian used to meet his girlfriend at his grandmother’s, who also was giving him piano lessons. Therefore, the mother never met Julian’s girlfriend, and her son’s frequent visits to his grandmother did not arouse her suspicions. When Julian’s mother forbids him from visiting the grandma, contact with the girl breaks off. They have no place or time to meet. Julian is obliged to go back home immediately after school. The boy bought a small gift for his girlfriend and wrote her a letter. However, there is no opportunity to pass it on. Eventually, he decides to give it to his mother. The mother is dissatisfied with the gift and looks at her son suspiciously. She tries to find out why he bought these chocolates right now. “I bought you these for Easter,” Julian explains. „It’s still a long way to Easter. Who buys chocolates so far in advance? You’re not normal.” Suspicions infuriate the mother. Julian doesn’t know what to do with himself. „Are you offended at me? Where did you get the money for that?” The boy admits that he got the money from his father. „I forbade him from giving you money this month!” Julian humbly listens to her hysterical yells. The woman throws the chocolates out of the box and tells her son to clean the floor. When the boy bends down to pick up the chocolates, she drives him out of the room. „Get out, you monster,” she shouts after him.

After Julian is banned from visiting his grandma, in desperation, he once meets his girlfriend in the school toilet. The girl is extremely disgusted: „Even at your grandmother’s place, it wasn’t so dirty.” She doesn’t want to meet Julian in such circumstances. The toilet is a rather unusual place for a date. One of their mutual friends is organizing an evening party in the coming days. The girl tells Julian this is the last chance to preserve their relationship. Julian has to be there.

On the appointed evening, Julian sneaks out of the house and bikes to the meeting. The friend at whom everything is happening bursts suddenly into the room where Julian is sitting with his girlfriend to inform him that his family found out about everything and that his parents are on their way to pick him up. Susan has called with a warning. Julian left her the contact details for the meeting place and handed the phone to his friend. Apparently, the parents forced Susan to give them this information. Julian gets on his bike and races home. On the way, he meets his parents’ car. In a fit of fury, the mother slaps and kicks him in the middle of the road. Crouched on the ground, Julian does not defend himself at all. The father and Susan are watching it all without leaving the car. Finally, the mother pushes Julian into the auto. They drive home. The bike stays in the middle of the road.

At home, Julian continues to be abused by his mother. „Why did you do this? Why ?” she yells. Susan tries to defend her brother but is scolded by her mother and thrown out of the room. Unexpectedly, Julian’s father comes to his defense, covering Julian with his body from the raging wife. Losing his temper, he suddenly slaps his wife, which leaves her stunned. This psychopathic woman raised her husband exactly the same as she does with her son. She hadn’t expected such a reaction from him. A moment of lacking self-control causes the husband to feel violently guilty, and he immediately tries to humiliate himself before his wife. She won’t forget it for a long time.

Julian’s school performance is getting worse and worse. On the occasion of another visit to the school, the mother slaps Julian in the presence of his friends in the schoolyard. As punishment, she sells his piano and removes almost all items from his room that could prove that it is a child’s room. After the changes, the flat resembles a prison cell. It’s locked all day. Julian can enter it only with his mother’s permission.

In the meantime, the grandma dies. She was the only adult person in this family Julian could rely on. The boy learns about her death from his parents only after her funeral. Mother hid it from Julian so that „protect him from trauma.”

Unexpectedly, the police arrive at the house: two men and a woman. Julian reported over the phone that he wanted to commit suicide. The father is completely surprised by the visit of the police. During the intervention, the mother returns home. Of course, she „doesn’t understand” why his son called the police – after all: „nothing special happened.” She did not notice any disturbing symptoms in her son’s behavior. Julian reports to the officers that he was beaten by his mother. The mother admits that such a situation actually took place, but she slapped him only once and is looking at the son meaningfully. The father confirms the mother’s version. The policewoman takes Julian into a separate room to interview him. Following the habit, Julian confirms the statement of his mother. The policewoman finds no signs of beating on his body, so decides to end the intervention. Julian’s report will be treated by the police as a juvenile prank. The boy is left alone with his parents again (Susan is in a boarding school).

One day, Julian brings home a flare pistol borrowed from a friend. His mother, hearing that her son has returned from school, comes downstairs and finds Julian in the kitchen. At the sight of her, the boy points at her the gun. Seeing that it is a toy gun, the mother taunts Julian and provokes him to shoot. After a moment, Julian puts the gun down and picks up the kitchen knife he used to peel the apple. The mother continues to sneer and provoke.

We watch the scene we saw at the very beginning of the movie again. Now we know who is the person the paramedics are carrying out of the house on a stretcher. It’s Julian’s mother. In the background, Susana’s voice informs the viewer that her mother survived and „doesn’t blame Julian for what happened.” Even after such a dramatic event, her sick psyche did not realize it was her who was the source of all misfortunes in this house. After recovery her toxic nature will continue to poison the family’s life. The inability to critically assess taken actions and behaviors is very typical for the toxic mothers. They never feel guilty.

What happened to Julian? It is not known. He must have gone to some juvenile correctional facility. In the last scene of the movie, we see Julian dancing with his mother. Such an image of her son she will keep in her memories.

Julian dancing with his mother (fot: STUDIOCANAL)
Julian z babcią
Julian with his grandmother (fot: STUDIOCANAL)

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