Review: ‘Don’t Call Me Son’ looks at family bond

Tom Long
The Detroit News

“Don’t Call Me Son” starts out as a portrait of a teenager struggling/playing with his sexual identity, but then takes a startling turn.

Meet Pierre (Naomi Nero), a 17-year-old Brazilian lad who likes to cross dress. He shaves his chest, he wears garter belts, he paints his fingernails and tries on lipstick. He’s not so much gay — when we’re first introduced to him he’s having sex with a girl — as he is ambiguous and androgynous.

But he’s also just a teenager. He loves riding his bicycle on hilly streets with his rowdy friends. He plays guitar in a rock band. He loves his younger sister, Jacqueline (Lais Dias) and is bored in school. His widowed-but-brassy mother (Daniela Nefussi) dutifully feeds him breakfast every morning. He’s every sulking teen in the world.

Which is just fine until the police inform him that he was stolen at birth.

The film offers almost no detail as to how this happened, or who even stole him. But it turns out Jacqueline was stolen, as well. In little more than a blink Mom has been sent to prison and new families, absolute strangers, have arrived to claim Jacqueline and Pierre (whose real name turns out to be Felipe).

The previous film from writer-director Anna Muylaet was the excellent “The Second Mother,” which also wrestled with the nature of family and parenthood. Here she spices things up with Pierre’s gender confusion, making his move to a new reality all the more intimidating and off-putting.

Imagine the shock, imagine the adjustment, imagine not wanting to adjust. “Don’t Call Me Son” imagines all that and more while calling into question the nature of bonding, blood and close ties.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.


‘Don’t Call Me Son’


Not rated

Running time: 82 minutes

At The Detroit Film Theatre