Limburg, in the south of Netherlands, is the location of Remy van Heugten’s feature film “Gluckauf” (Eng. title: “Son of Mine”). As an ode to the province’s former mining industry, he named the film after a phrase that all miners used to say, which means “to go up” or to “go above ground”. Surely enough, this aptly applies to the film’s gripping drama about the unusual father and son relationship between Lei, a petty criminal, and his son Jeffrey (Vincent van der Valk) who seems to follow suit.
“Son of Mine” features Limburg’s socio-economic struggle after the province looses its mining industry. As soon as state-owned mines were shut down after being deemed inhumane by its government, the people were either left with a choice to leave or they stayed and found other means of living. In Lei’s situation, he chooses to live a violent life as a petty criminal who hunts for smaller preys like rabbits in exchange for food (and drink) at bars, and seldom works for big time criminals like his father’s old friend, Vester (Johan Leysen). He steals his son away from his former wife, leading him to live a life that’s only meant for more violence and risk.
Jeffrey grows up to be a naïve criminal under his father’s wing. But like most children, he plays the risks for an even better win. In one scene, he and his father go hunting, and instead of going for rabbits he hunts for deer. He buys and sells drugs, and plays it cool with the drug pushers. His fathers imposes a more ruthless tactic, but the times have changed and his ways are getting behind him. It is evident that Lei isn’t retiring anytime soon.
Their relationship heightens as Jeffrey begins to find his own course, while Lei struggles to stay afloat. There’s no denying that the son loves his father dearly, though the film shows the conflict that Lei has had for himself for quite a long time—perhaps one that he inherited from his own father, but somehow he’s frustrated he couldn’t hand this down to his own son. He, too loves Jeffrey dearly, but expresses it in ways that only he knows how.
The film reaches a climactic point when Lei looses everything, by his own choices and actions. It is an irreplaceable fact that it is human nature to regret. Bart Slegers portrays the harrowed look on Lei’s face during his son’s funeral, a fault he knows (and we know) is his own.
He tries to redeem himself after, and the film’s closing scene perhaps leaves it best when we find Lei, at nearing the end of his life, staring at a sunset that seems to be following suit.
It is difficult to leave the theater with dry eyes. The film wins Technical Grand Prize, with the film’s stunning imagery of grit and gloom, and the social realism that comes with it.