“I love you Cameron Tanner. Always have. Always will.”
Most husbands adore their wives’ words of love. Cameron’s (Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”) ambivalence stems from his secret, painful ordeal. He’s dying and his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris, “Moonlight)” doesn’t know it.
Convulsions. Blackouts. Brain disease is draining the life out of him. Poppy has just emerged from months of depression after the death of her brother Andre (Nyasha Hatendi), and the couple is going through a rough patch. He can’t heap more burdens on her or fathom leaving her alone to parent their young son Cory (Dax Rey).
Out of sheer desperation, Cam seeks out a service that can clone him – DNA et al. A genetically engineered replica would integrate into his family, without their knowledge, and support his wife and child long after he’s died.
Nothing goes smoothly.
The dra/sci-ﬁ premise is set in the future when driverless cars are old hat and technology has made human replication near seamless. Best Short Film Oscar-winner Benjamin Cleary (“Stutterer”) builds the characters with three dimensions in a genre that rarely uses more the two. The evocative storyline reveals plot points in a jumbled spread-out fashion. Things are hinted at before being revealed. It’s an alluring puzzlement that grabs then holds your attention.
When Cameron and his doppelganger confront each other’s fears and act out, the ﬁlm ﬁnds its footing. Then, real outward emotions ground the previously sterile storyline and themes of selflessness and making the ultimate sacriﬁce emerge. It’s enough to make audiences consider if they would do the same if they faced similar circumstances and could get away with it.
The crisp earth colors (art director Michael Diner, “The Revenant)”, sharp cinematography (Masanobu Takayanagi, “Hostiles)” and slick and amazing tech tricks (special effects coordinator Tony Lazarowich) make everything look real when obviously it’s not.
Floating in air checklists, dad and son playing MMA ﬁghter games with little droids on a Zoom conference call, robocars… Production designer Annie Beauchamp (“Moulin Rouge”) along with set decorator Shannon Gottlieb create interiors, exteriors and props that reflect the futuristic times in the most sparse and exquisite ways.
Jay Wadley’s modern touch musical score eschews legato for staccato piano music and is greatly aided by a playlist that includes Frank Ocean crooning “Moon River” in the most spacy and weirdly bewitching way.
Only an actor of Ali’s caliber could interpret a character on death’s door her. Together, Ali and Harris magically forge a partnership that is earnest and endearing.
Glenn Close as Dr. Scott, leader of the experimental Arra Laboratory, is as nurturing as she is callous. Adam Beach is far more sensitive and caring It’s surreal, poignant and stylish beyond words thanks to Cleary’s visions.
Come for the sci-ﬁ tricks. Stay for a story bathed in an ethereal atmosphere that will keep you intrigued until the end. Whatever that may be.
He loves her. Always has. Always will.