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Critics reviews
My Son John
Leo McCarey United States, 1952
The film that linked McCarey’s rowdy democratic vision to McCarthyite bughouse paranoia, a work that his reputation has struggled upstream against ever since… For about half of its runtime, when educated-above-his-station college boy snoot Robert Walker visits mom and dad, it’s prime McCarey—but then a Make Way for Tomorrow–esque study in familial dysfunction doesn’t survive the sharp pivot into a defense of same hearth and home.
July 13, 2016
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It works, because McCarey builds My Son John—which, at over two hours, is long by the standards of the early 1950s—around a sense of familial intimacy, which is then betrayed. It is a strange and often moving film, at once demented (especially in the patched-together final act) and full of grace notes. It imagines America—or, rather, McCarey’s conservative view of America—as something as primal as family, which cannot be forsaken.
July 03, 2015
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As the tension mounts, particularly between Jagger and Walker, My Son John turns into a full-blown McCarthy hearing, with Jagger blasting his son with accusations of Communist subversion while Walker smugly, arrogantly, and ineffectually tries to deflect the charges. Once the Bible gets whipped out, the film reaches a comical nadir of moral high-handedness.
August 29, 2012
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An infamously hysterical red-scare artifact, Leo McCarey’s My Son John remains potent through its most laughable sequences as a menopausal thriller—an inversion of the “Is she or isn’t she hallucinating?” woman’s picture (cf. Shadow of a Doubt or The Innocents) where the cracks in consciousness are the result of reproductive breakdown for once rather than sexual repression.
August 21, 2012
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At once profound about the dynamics of family discord involving cultural differences and deranged about the Communist menace, My Son John shows with equal sincerity and intensity McCarey’s complex understanding of people and his unqualified support of the FBI’s totalitarian surveillance of his most sympathetic character (Hayes), when she confirms what they already know — that her favorite son (Walker), John, a Washington bureaucrat, is a Communist agent.
July 01, 2008
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