Alpha Male is a story of family life. It is a film about the force of personality, about family politics, repressed emotions, great love and devastating loss.
Jim Ferris is the archetypal “alpha male”. Warm, charismatic, ambitious and successful, he is the driving force of his business and the linchpin of his family life. He is the consummate provider for his wife Alice and for his children, Jack and Elyssa, both in terms of material comfort and emotional support. It feels as though nothing can touch the idyllic world he has created, so that his sudden illness and death come as the most profound shock. Alice and the children are left stunned and adrift in the limbo of bereavement and loneliness.
The young Jack, charged with the task of being the man of the house, takes his new responsibility very seriously. Elyssa, already a sensitive and perceptive girl, becomes increasingly withdrawn and derails in a myriad of disturbing ways. Alice, lost in her grief and relying too heavily on the support of her envious sister Brede, seems to give up all influence over the household. Finally Elyssa reaches crisis point, and only then does Alice pull herself together and resume her role as caring mother. Brede is sent away, and Alice does her best to cope as a single mother.
When Alice meets widower Clive Lamis, she finds in him a steady companion and someone she imagines can share the responsibility of bringing up her children. But Clive finds himself cast in Jim’s long shadow and struggles to emerge from it as the family’s new patriarch. Jack is indignant and takes an instant dislike to this pretender in his house. Openly disdainful of Clive, and feeling betrayed by his mother, Jack embarks on a course of grim silence and obstinate refusal to accept the new household arrangements. Instead, he focuses all his energies on studying hard, preparing his escape to university. When Alice and Clive have a child of their own, Nathan, Jack cuts himself off completely.
When Jack turns 21, Alice somehow manages to persuade him to return home so that she can throw him an extravagant birthday party. All the family are brought together once again, their conflicts and deep resentments all still fresh and ripe for expression. Jack, Alice, Clive, Elyssa and Brede – even Jim’s presence is felt over this hot Summer weekend. In a climax of mounting tension and complex emotional interplay, all the old wounds are reopened and everything that has been simmering for so long finally comes to a head.