Today: February 27, 2024

Clone

By Erykah Brackenbury What’s the best option having just lost the love of your life? According to Clone (née Womb), to give birth to a genetic copy of the man you were in love with and raise him as your own son. Expect mummy issues as standard.

By Erykah Brackenbury

What’s the best
option having just lost the love of your life? According to Clone (née Womb), to give birth to a
genetic copy of the man you were in love with and raise him as your own son.
Expect mummy issues as standard.

Set in a near-future, childhood friends Rebecca (Eva
Green
) and Tommy (Matt Smith) reunite after many years, before
tragedy strikes and Rebecca makes the decision to create a replacement Tommy.
It’s a curious film which tries to tackle a host of issues – cloning, nature vs
nurture, incest – without ever really giving each of the topics the treatment
it deserves.

It’s a slow burner of a film, much time given to lingering
wideshots. Hungarian writer/director Benedek Fliegauf chose to shoot in
Germany using English actors, the landscapes of an otherworldly almost-England
adding a dream-like quality to the piece. Despite the lengthy build-up,
however, many issues are glossed over or ignored.

Tommy’s parents seem surprisingly relaxed by the concept of
their biological son being brought up by another woman, and Rebecca’s happiness
to recreate Tommy without deliberating over the ethics is glossed over. Indeed,
even any motherly affection towards her son is lacking, seemingly only biding
her time until Tommy becomes the man she fell in love with. It’s a major flaw
of the film that Rebecca’s maternal instincts are mostly ignored, as surely
giving birth to and bringing up a child, even if not genetically your own,
would cause some depth of feeling? Throughout the film Eva Green seems cold and
aloof, never quite feeling like a caring mother or a sensual lover. One of the
best-handled parts of the film is the depiction of shock and grief, which Green
handles admirably, showing a realistic numbness rather than wailing and
gnashing of teeth. An escape from this comatose state would be much welcomed
throughout the remains of the film, however.

Part of the problem with Rebecca is we only ever see her
framed through her love for Tommy, whether it be as a child, as Tommy’s brief
lover or as his mother. As the main character in the film we never know
anything about her and it makes it hard to invest emotionally in a woman
defined purely by her feelings for a man. Everything she does is for Tommy, and
whilst this gives some motivation to her unusual actions it isn’t enough for a
lead role to have such sparse characterisation.

Matt Smith brilliantly brings out the subtle differences
between each Tommy. In the hands of a lesser actor the characters could have
been played identically, but he manages to make each a distinct character,
whilst retaining similarities presumably drummed into the younger version by
Rebecca. His efforts help make the film transcend above its many plot holes.

Tristan Christopher as the young Tommy is a rare
example of a non-irritating child actor. However, due to Fliegauf’s odd
decision to cast German child actors and overdub them with English ones, it is
tricky to fully judge his performance.

A major problem with Clone is that whilst there is enough
tension between the second Tommy and Rebecca for Freud to be proud, Rebecca’s
relationship with the original is never entirely believable. Reappearing in
each other’s lives for the first time as adults, their affection seems awkward
and stilted, and the great passion that prompts Rebecca to such extreme
measures is never palpable. To buy into the surreal plot we need to believe in
the all-consuming love between the two, which falls short. The pain and
jealousy Rebecca feels upon her son finding a girlfriend (Hannah Murray)
is understated – as with much of the film – and painful to watch, on a number
of levels.

Comparisons will inevitably be made between this and Never
Let Me Go
, which in addition to sharing a subject matter, is filmed in the
same slow, meandering style and even names its lead male Tommy. Sadly, Clone
never quite matches up to the earlier film, due to tensions that are built
without any great payoff, and a plot which bites off more than it can chew.

Clone is visually beautiful and at times difficult to watch.
Frustrating due to not delivering on its potential, it is nevertheless a
curiosity which deserves more of an audience than just those queuing to see
Doctor Who’s bum.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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