The Goode Son tells the story of the Goodes - Judah, Judah's wife (unnamed), Erik (called Er by his family), Tamar and Onan. A family with a long heritage but little favour in a small Welsh farming village in the present day. The Goode men are known for having a violent streak and their wives for their meek passivity. Following the death of reckless elder brother Erik in a drink-driving accident, Judah commands Tamar to move in with Onan while she is still grieving and pregnant with Er's only child. Furious at the imposition yet ever dutiful, Onan determines to make Tamar's life a misery abusing, bullying and neglecting her in a manner he does not realise echoes Er's private treatment of her while he lived. Onan's anger at having to feign pleasure at his sister-in-law's continued presence in his household reaches a climax when her son is born. In a moment of frustration, where his intentions are deliberately made unclear, Onan causes the death of the infant, discovering the fact just as Tamar is about to walk into the room. Fleeing the house he is hit by a vehicle similar to the one Erik crashed and died in.
The plot of The Goode Son is adapted from Genesis 38 1-10 and tells the story of Judah, his unnamed wife and their dysfunctional family. The action follows the death of their eldest son Er and centres on his mysterious wife, later widow, Tamar & Onan; their other son, a bachelor. I omitted youngest son Shelah altogether as he is not vital to the progression of the plot. I thought it would be interesting to look at a paternalistic society which was so based on inheritance by seniority from the perspective of a middle (or for the film, younger) brother. Onan, though his duties are limited and he is, effectively, disinherited while Er lives; is the good son. He is both fervent in his religious zeal and utterly devoted to pleasing his father - a ceaseless, fruitless task as it turns out. He is also perfectly wretched and completely miserable. In the Biblical narrative, I could see, in Onan's choice to avoid impregnating Tamar, echoes of the brother of The Prodigal Son. A dutiful, consistent son whose good behaviour goes unnoticed in the wake of the chaos wreaked by the more boisterous, less responsible sibling.