Would you clone your dead lover if you could? Thankfully it’s not something we need to worry too much about at the moment, although it may well be something mankind has to face in the near future. That said, I have to hope that future isn’t quite like it is in Clone.
Rebecca (Eva Green) and Thomas (Matt Smith) have known each other since childhood and after reuniting as adults embark on an intense relationship. However things are cut short when Thomas is hit by a car and killed. Despite the objections of his mother, Rebecca decides to mother a clone of Thomas as she cannot let go of him.
Once the child is born, she decides not to tell her child the truth about his parentage, partly because of the social prejudice against ‘copies’, which eventually leads them to living in an isolated stilt house near the sea. As Thomas grows and begins to look increasingly like the man he was cloned from, it raises all sorts of issues for both mother and child, with Thomas becoming increasingly confused about what’s going on and exactly what his relationship to Rebecca ought to be.
Clone is an interesting film even it would be a stretch to call it a good one. The movie raises a lot of intriguing issues, but doesn’t really take any of them anywhere. The reason for that is that it inhabits a world of very little dialogue. Indeed there are times when the movie seems to be an exercise in how little speech they can get away with. It’s a quiet, contemplative movie, which doesn’t even use music.
Much of Clone is therefore left to the viewer to interpret and to fill the space the movie leaves with their own thoughts. With some films it can be an extremely effective technique, but Clone tends to be so sparse it’s often difficult to know what journey it’s meant to be taking us on. While its lack of hand holding is brave, it isn’t tightly put together enough to fully pull it off. You’re as likely to be wondering how the red-headed kid could possibly grow up to be Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and why nobody ages barring getting increasingly grey skin, as you are to be thinking about the ramifications of what you’re seeing.
It’s also interesting that in the ‘making of’ featurette they talk about the film being a massive love story – but to be honest that doesn’t really come across fully, partly because the quietness doesn’t let you really feel the passion of Rebecca & Thomas before he dies. The result is that rather than being a love story, it’s actually more a disturbing, slightly strange tale, where you know that at some point the lines between having your lover back and incest are going to be blurred. It’s also clear that in this virtually silent world that blurring is going to be something that will happen without being fully explored.
To its credit, the acting is good. Matt Smith gives a strong performance as the increasingly confused Thomas, although he’s slightly undermined by a script that refuses to say why things are happening, which becomes increasingly problematic towards the end. It’s really Eva Green’s film though, who’s becoming the go-to girl for damaged characters who always look like 1001 emotions are roiling behind her astute, piercing gaze.
It isn’t a bad movie, it’s just that it feels like writer/director Benedek Fliegauf has spent so much time concentrating on individual moments and scenes that he hasn’t considered the overall effect enough. Indeed there are sections that in isolation are rather effective, such as the incredibly restrained way Thomas’ death occurs early in the film, but while admirable as a filmic moment, the way its underplayed ends up being detrimental to the rest of the film. It is essentially the emotional axle around which the film revolves, but doesn’t feel it because of the way it’s shot.
There is a very good film to be made about cloning dead loved ones, but sadly this isn’t it.
Overall Verdict: Too quiet and restrained for its own good, Clone raises a lot of big issues, but like the characters in the movie, ends up saying little about them while being slightly confused.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac