The true story of Mark Yavorsky, who stabbed his mother with a sabre while under the influence of Aeschylus is a strange one. It’s also bait for Werner Herzog, who obviously has a penchant for stories of the lone individual – and so much the better if that individual happens to be unstable (see also: almost every Herzog film). In ‘My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?’ Herzog has kept the matricidal component of Yavorsky's story, while substituting his own background and resolution. What results is a chilling, deliberately paced film about madness, and about being blind to that madness.
The film is direct and to the point; rather than build to a dénouement, it starts with one. Within the first ten minutes, we know that Brad (Herzog has changed Mark’s name to Brad McCullum) has killed his mother and is holed up in a house across the street from the crime, surrounded by the police. We also know that this remarkable event is the central event of the movie; the mysteries lie in how this came about, and how it will end.