Thursday, December 16, 2021

Swan Song, on Apple TV+

If science fiction predicts something enough times, does that mean it will truly come to pass? Should that be so, the terminally ill will eventually be able to replace themselves with healthy clones that carry their memories. We have already seen dying fathers come to terms with their clone successors in Guy Moshe’s LX 2048 and the “Tom” episode of Solos, so we can anticipate the mixed emotions Cameron Turner feels in Benjamin Cleary’s Swan Song, which premieres tomorrow on Apple TV+.

So, Turner is doing poorly. His outlook is fatal, but he hasn’t told his wife Poppy or their son anything. It is better that way, if he goes through with the radical treatment proposed by Dr. Scott. She will clone him in every respect, except for that obvious congenital defect, including his memories. However, they will need his help to verify all his old recollections synchronized acutely. That trip down memory lane will be painful, especially since it requires spending time with “Jack,” his replacement.

Despite the basic science fiction premise,
Swan Song is more a film about death and letting go than the speculative implications of cloning. True, there are self-driving cars, but those are supposed to be coming right around the corner, finally. Fortunately, much of that drama is quite well done, especially the strange relationship that develops between Turner and his clone.

Mahershala Ali is very good in what is sort of, but not exactly a dual role, as Turner and his clone. Frankly, it is quite impressive how good he is playing opposite himself. He also has some nice sequences with Naomie Harris, as his wife Poppy, especially during memories of their first meetings. Harris does indeed have some effective moments, but her character’s complete lack of intuition somewhat strains credulity.

Yet, Awkwafina outshines everyone and gets all the film’s laughs (not much competition there) as Kate Chiao, the previous client, who has already been replaced and is now waiting for the inevitable. However, Glenn Close is underemployed as the competent but not especially interesting Dr. Scott and Adam Beach (who usually livens up anything he appears in) has even less to do as her assistant, Dalton.

Cleary and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi give the film a stylish look that is both wintery and elegiac, as well as vaguely futuristic. Ali and Awkwafina are very good, but a lot of us have seen these concepts before. Admittedly, this one is better than the two previously cited examples, but the different yet somewhat thematically related
Marjorie Prime is still superior to them all. Recommended for those who have Apple TV+ and have not seen any of the heretofore referenced, Swan Song starts streaming tomorrow (12/17).