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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)

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Inspired by a true crime, a man begins to experience mystifying events that lead him to slay his mother with a sword.


Werner Herzog
2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Shannon ... Brad Macallam
Willem Dafoe ... Detective Havenhurst
Chloë Sevigny ... Ingrid Gudmundson
Udo Kier ... Lee Meyers
Michael Peña ... Detective Vargas
Grace Zabriskie ... Mrs Macallam
Brad Dourif ... Uncle Ted
Irma P. Hall ... Mrs Roberts (as Irma Hall)
Loretta Devine ... Ms Roberts
Candice Coke ... Officer Slocum
Gabriel Pimentel ... Little Man
Braden Lynch ... Gary
James C. Burns ... Brown
Noel Arthur ... Naval Guard
Julius Morck Julius Morck ... Phil (as Julius Mørck)


The police are called to a murder scene and quickly discover that the murderer, the victim's son, is holed up in his house with two hostages. Through a series of interviews with both the murderer's fiancée and his theatre director the police piece together a picture of a man losing touch with reality. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Mystery Isn't Who. But Why.


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



USA | Germany



Release Date:

8 July 2010 (Portugal) See more »

Also Known As:

Benim Güzel Oglum, Ne Yaptin Sen? See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Werner Herzog's fourth collaboration with Brad Dourif. See more »


In the escalator scene, which takes place in Calgary but which was filmed at the San Diego Convention Center, one can clearly see a row of palm trees outside. See more »


[first lines]
Detective Vargas: Do you want me to take the wheel Hank?
Detective Hank Havenhurst: No, no - it's no problem. I've driven halfway across the country with one hand.
See more »


Corrido de Valente Quintero
Performed by Chavela Vargas (as Chalela Vargas)
Written by Antonio Cantoral Garcia
Courtesy of Pham & Orfeon Videovox, S.A.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"I don't want go to the sweat lodge where the 104 year old shaman reads Hustler"
15 October 2010 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

Roger Ebert said about My Son that it "confounds all convention and denies all expected pleasures", and this is partially true because there's a murder but we know who did it and we know where he is, right across the street, and the hostage situation that develops outside the suspect's place is perfunctory at best (which means Willem Dafoe as the homicide detective has very little to do here, no this is Mike Shannon's film), but in place of the tired conventions of the detective movie Herzog invents new pleasures, strange and mystifying and sometimes completely mindbending and hilarious, like the mental image of a midget on a baby horse being chased by a 45 pound chicken that is taller than both rider and horse, an idea for a commercial Brad Dourif explains wide-eyed with fascination, but a commercial to what how should he know!

This is an amazing film on the poetics of madness using the real story of a man who slew his mother with a sword to tell us about absurdity in the world. It's like jumping over the fence of an insane asylum to mingle with the inmates and pay attention to what they have to say because there might be truth there, and if there isn't they always make up the best of stories. Herzog's most famous characters have been romantic madmen indeed, and Brad McCulloch fits right next to Cobra Verde the slavetrader bandit, he's the cynic who rebels and leaves his rebellion incomplete, without a grand message for the world. He goes rafting in Peru then gives up on it, tells his friends he won't go to the sweat lodge where the 104 year old shaman smokes Kool cigarettes and reads Hustler, that he wants to stun his inner growth and become a Muslim. He berates his hippie friend who meditates on a rock facing the river, and tells him to open his eyes, reality is around him.

As with other Herzog films, I like this so much because it celebrates insane human behaviour, monomania and folly, dogged human pursuit for transcendence against a yawning futile universe. I like how this is punctuated by some amazing images; like the dinner scene at Brad's house with his girlfriend and mother, where all three of them simply stop moving and freeze in position. People who love to hate David Lynch, will find plenty of room for maneuvre here to call My Son strange for its own sake, nonsensical and pretentious. In a meeting between Herzog and Lynch before the film was made, they both expressed a desire for, in Herzog's words, "a return to essential filmmaking" with small budgets, good stories, and the best actors available. This is all that, except in the way very few people can make it.

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