The Good Son (film)

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The Good Son
The Good Son (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Produced by Joseph Ruben
Mary Ann Page
Written by Ian McEwan
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography John Lindley
Edited by George Bowers
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 24, 1993 (1993-09-24)
Running time
86 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million
Box office $60.6 million[2]

The Good Son is a 1993 American psychological thriller film directed by Joseph Ruben and written by English novelist Ian McEwan. The film stars Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood.


12-year-old Mark Evans (Elijah Wood) has recently experienced the death of his mother, Janice (Ashley Crow). Heading for a business trip to Tokyo, Mark's father Jack (David Morse) drives Mark to the home of his uncle Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly) and aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson) in Maine where he will stay during the winter break. Mark is reintroduced to his extended family, including his cousins Connie (Quinn Culkin) and Henry (Macaulay Culkin). Mark and Henry get along at first, and Henry seems to be nice and well-mannered. However, Henry displays an abnormal fascination with death and his talk of the death of Mark's mother and that of his younger brother Richard, makes Mark feel uneasy.

Henry begins to display psychopathic behavior, about which Mark is unable to tell Wallace and Susan due to Henry's dark threats. One of Henry's violent actions is throwing a dummy off a bridge and on to the highway, causing a massive pileup. Later, Henry plans to kill Connie. Afraid that something might happen to her, Mark spends the night in her room. The next morning, Mark awakens to find Henry has taken Connie ice skating. At the pond, Henry purposely throws Connie toward thin ice. The ice collapses and Connie nearly drowns, but she is rescued and taken to the hospital. Susan becomes suspicious and sitting in the dark, out of view, is able to interrupt Henry when he visits Connie's room, planning to smother her.

Susan finds a rubber duck that Henry has hidden in the shed. It had once belonged to Richard and was with him in the bathtub the night he drowned, after which it went missing. When Susan confronts Henry, he coldly reminds her that the toy had belonged to him before it had been Richard's. He asks for the duck back but Susan refuses and Henry tries to take it from her. After a violent tug-of-war, Henry snatches the duck and runs to the cemetery where he throws it down a well. As Susan and Mark grow closer, Henry insinuates he will kill Susan rather than let Mark continue to develop a relationship with her.

When a fight breaks out between the two boys, Wallace locks Mark in the den. Henry asks a suspicious Susan to go for a walk with him, while Mark escapes the den and chases after them. Susan confronts Henry, asking him if he killed his brother. Henry replies, "What if I did?" Horrified by what her son has become, Susan tells Henry that he needs help but Henry flees into the woods. Susan gives chase and upon arriving at a cliff, Henry shoves her over the edge. As Susan dangles precariously, Henry picks up a large rock he intends to throw down at her but Mark intervenes and tackles Henry. They fight and Henry viciously tries his best to kill Mark. Susan manages to pull herself up on to the clifftop and is just in time to dive forward and grab hold of the boys as they roll over the edge. Lying flat on the rock she hangs on to both boys, one in each hand. Henry holds on with both hands but Mark's one-handed grip begins to slip. Henry says, "Mom, I love you." Then Henry says to his mother, "I need your other hand." With only enough strength to save one of them, Susan, realizing the malevolence in Henry's nature, reluctantly releases him, and he falls to his death. Susan pulls Mark up from the ledge and they look down upon Henry's body on the rocks below, before it is washed away into the sea and they both share an emotional embrace. When Mark returns home to Arizona, he reflects upon Susan's choice to save him instead of Henry and wonders if she would make the same choice again but knows it is something he will never ask her.


  • Elijah Wood as Mark Evans. A 12-year-old boy from Arizona. After his mother passes away, he is sent to Maine to stay with his aunt and uncle while his father is away on a business trip in Tokyo, Japan´s capital city.
  • Macaulay Culkin as Henry Evans, Mark's psychopathic cousin.
  • Wendy Crewson as Susan Evans, Mark's aunt.
  • David Morse as Jack Evans, Mark's father and Wallace's younger brother.
  • Daniel Hugh Kelly as Wallace Evans, Mark's uncle and Jack's older brother.
  • Jacqueline Brookes as Alice Davenport, a child psychologist.
  • Quinn Culkin as Connie Evans, Henry's little sister.
  • Ashley Crow as Janice Evans, Jack's wife and Mark's mother.


Following the completion of his novel The Child in Time, English novelist Ian McEwan was invited by 20th Century Fox to write a screenplay "about evil - possible concerning children." McEwan recalled, "The idea was to make a low budget, high class movie, not something that Fox would naturally make a lot of money on."

Despite being well received, the end result was deemed insufficiently commercial by the parties that commissioned it, and it floated around Hollywood until being discovered by independent producer Mary Ann Page. Enthusiastic about the script, originally sent to her as a writing sample, Page tried to get the project off the ground for three and a half years. The film was briefly set up at Universal Studios, during which Brian Gilbert was attached as director. In 1988, Michael Klesic was originally cast in the role of Henry Evans.[3] The film was soon after put on hold due to a lack of funding.[3] Following the successes of Home Alone and The Silence of the Lambs, which respectively demonstrated the appeal of both a movie about kids and of an "extreme thriller," Fox itself chose to revisit the project, which they now saw as viable. Director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) became attached, Laurence Mark was appointed as a co-producer, and McEwan was called in for rewrites. Mary Steenburgen was cast as Susan[3] and Jesse Bradford had replaced Klesic as Henry because he had grown too old to play the part.[3] McEwan was optimistic about the project and by November 1991, sets were being built in Maine for a production that would cost approximately $12 million.

This progress was suddenly interrupted when Kit Culkin, Macaulay Culkin's father and manager, at the time a notoriously influential force in Hollywood due to the child's stardom, wanted his son to star in the film. Wishing to prove Macaulay's capacity in a dark role, he made his part in The Good Son a condition for his appearing in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Fox agreed enthusiastically due to Culkin's bankability. As the movie was originally scheduled to shoot at the same time as Home Alone 2, the start date for The Good Son was pushed back for a year, making Steenburgen no longer available and having her replaced by Wendy Crewson but also enabling Elijah Wood's involvement.

Director Lehmann and producer Mark conflicted with the imposition, leading both to leave the project. The demanding Culkin would go on to insist that his daughter Quinn receive a role in the film and vetted replacement director Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy). Furthermore, the budget had risen to an estimated $20 million.

McEwan found himself performing further rewrites that continued to simplify the story to satisfy Ruben's comparatively mainstream tastes, and was ultimately unceremoniously removed from the project altogether when another screenwriter was commissioned. Despite this, McEwan was awarded sole writing credit in arbitration when he contested a shared credit.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Roger Ebert, who deemed the film inappropriate for children, awarded it half a star, calling the project a "creepy, unpleasant experience".[5] He and Gene Siskel later gave it "Two Thumbs Down":[6] Many critics criticized the casting of Culkin because of his comedic image from Home Alone.[7][8] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post stated that "the mere presence of the adorable boy star...seems to throw the whole film out of whack, making the picture play more like an inadvertent comedy than a thriller."[9] As of September 2017 the film has a 27% overall score on Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

Box office[edit]

The Good Son earned US$44,789,789 at the North American box office revenues, and another $15,823,219 in other territories, for a total worldwide box office take of $60,613,008.[11][12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[13]


Home media[edit]

The Good Son was released on VHS in 1994.[14] A DVD of the film was released on September 11, 2012.[15] A Blu-ray release of The Good Son was announced on October 25, 2016[16] and was released on August 1, 2017.[17]


The Good Son (Original Score)
Film score by Elmer Bernstein
Released 1993 (1993)
Recorded August 1993
Studio Paramount Studios
Los Angeles, California
Length 44:28
Label Fox Music

Elmer Bernstein's score to The Good Son was released in 1993 by Fox Music.[18] The score was orchestrated by Emilie A. Bernstein and Patrick Russ.

Track listing[19]

  1. The Good Son 2:22
  2. Hospital :51
  3. Mark Arrives 2:49
  4. Evil 2:20
  5. Goodbye 1:41
  6. Treehouse 2:00
  7. Rocks & Rails 1:34
  8. Dog Chase 2:43
  9. Mom 1:47
  10. Killing the Dog 1:55
  11. Mr. Highway 2:13
  12. Dark 2:56
  13. Skating & Drowning 3:26
  14. Funeral 1:48
  15. Susan 2:28
  16. Richard’s Duck 1:18
  17. Threat 1:16
  18. The Cliff 4:26
  19. End Credits 4:35


A tie-in novel was published alongside the movie's release in 1993, written by Todd Strasser. The novel elaborates on the movie, detailing how Henry was born a sociopath, rather than being some personification of evil.

In the novel, Henry's mother Susan eventually discovers that Henry is unable to understand emotions like love and sorrow, and that pleasure derived from selfish actions and the torment of others are the few things he truly feels. The book also concludes differently from the movie, ending with Mark returning to Uncle Wallace's home in Maine one year later. Mark and Susan visit Henry's grave, which includes an epitaph: "Without Darkness There Can be No Light".


  1. ^ "THE GOOD SON - British Board of Film Classification". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Good Son (1993) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Good Son". IMDb. 
  4. ^ Durrant, Sabine (1993-08-19). "FILM / 'I thought nothing could possibly go wrong. Huh': Ian McEwan was happy with his first Hollywood film. It was small, but classy. Then along came Macaulay Culkin's dad . . . Sabine Durrant reports". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  5. ^ The Good Son review from the Chicago Sun-Times
  6. ^ The Good Son from At the Movies
  7. ^ Jonathan Rosenbaum (2007-07-25). "The Good Son". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  8. ^ Desson Howe (2000-01-01). "'The Good Son' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  9. ^ Hal Hinson (1993-09-14). "'The Good Son' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  10. ^ "The Good Son". Retrieved September 29, 2017. 
  11. ^ "The Good Son (1993) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  12. ^ Fox, David J. (1993-09-28). "Weekend Box Office : 'Son' Finds Good in Evil at Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  13. ^ "CinemaScore". 
  14. ^ "Good Son [VHS]". Retrieved April 13, 2017. 
  15. ^ "The Good Son". Amazon. Retrieved April 13, 2017. 
  16. ^ Webmaster (October 25, 2016). "The Good Son Blu-ray". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  17. ^ "The Good Son Blu-ray". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  18. ^ "The Good Son (Soundtrack) - Elmer Bernstein - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  19. ^

External links[edit]