Newest Review: ... respectively, after their eight year old son is killed in a car accident. The only catch is that, because human cloning is so illegal, th... more
Cloning a son
Member Name: sunmeilan
Advantages: Intriguing at first
Disadvantages: Plot becomes silly, unconvincing
Paul and Jessie Duncan are devastated when their son, Adam, dies just after his eighth birthday. Struggling to come to terms with his grief, they are initially horrified when Doctor Richard Wells approaches them, claiming that he can clone Adam, but they soon give in to the suggestion and, nine months later, Jessie gives birth to a new Adam. All is fine, until new Adam reaches his eighth birthday, then strange things start to happen. His behaviour changes, for the worst and he is rough and aggressive with other children. Although monitored by Richard, Adam begins to get out of control. Can Paul and Jessie work out what is happening to their son before more people get hurt?
The main draw for this film was Robert De Niro, who plays Richard Wells. De Niro rarely gives a bad performance, and I was expecting this to be no exception. I was surprised to find that his performance was sadly lacklustre. This is not entirely his fault, simply because Wells' role is fairly small and so De Niro doesn't really get the chance to develop it in any way, but I honestly think that Dr Wells could have been played by any competent actor and it wouldn't have made any difference. There is nothing about De Niro's performance that stands out in any way - and that includes the end where he does finally get the chance to show what he's made of. Perhaps I was asking too much - all actors have their downtimes - but I went away feeling disappointed.
Paul Duncan is played by Greg Kinnear, who does give a really good performance - just as well, as he is really the main character in the film. Watching him go through the trauma of losing a son and then realising that his new son might have something wrong with him was a real revelation - I found him convincing and touching and he injected some much needed class into the proceedings. Rebecca Romjin as Jessie was not as outstanding, although she wasn't terrible - she did have the opportunity to play the grief-stricken parent, but I just didn't feel it in the same way that I did with Kinnear.
The child, Adam, is played by Cameron Bright. As the focus of the movie, his acting could make or break the film. Unfortunately, I think he broke it. Again, it isn't a terrible performance, but it isn't terribly convincing and, to be honest, I found it hard to believe that his parents took so long to realise that there was something wrong with him. He just isn't very appealing, even when he is supposed to be. And his evil glances into the camera weren't particularly well done - I've seen much scarier horror film children than this - and I found myself disliking him more than being scared of him.
The whole issue of cloning and research into the area is not exactly new, and probably wasn't in 2004 when the film was made. Artificial Intelligence stands out as being a film that did it rather well. Godsend just doesn't do it as well. The idea that a dead child could be reborn is tempting, but it isn't explained well in the film and I found myself with all sorts of questions that weren't answered - the fact that it is highly unethical and illegal for a start. That may not have been important had the film been better, but as it is, I found the questions nagging at me and taking away from the story. And the ending really is silly. I watched it in disbelief and found it left me with a strong sense of frustration. I'm not really sure what message the film is trying to make - it could be simply that cloning is a bad idea - but whatever it is, the message gets lost in the storyline.
One good thing about the film is that it does start out strongly. The idea is really intriguing and the death of a child is going to grip most people's attention. However, once the story has been told up to new Adam's eighth birthday, things really begin to fall to pieces. There is a huge amount going on, much of it in the form of flashbacks going on in Adam's head. Then Paul undertakes an investigation based on these flashbacks, which is incredibly confusing because it is hard to follow his thought processes and they are not made terribly clear. Even when they do begin to make sense, there is a feeling that it wasn't worth the effort - and this is something that continues until the end of the film.
The film is quite well-made. There are a number of dream sequences that involve a fair bit of computer-generated images and these are well-woven into the rest of the film. My main issue with them was that they are shown so quickly that it is hard to grasp what is going on the first time around. That is fine if you are planning to watch it more than once, but for the average movie-goer, a little more detail is needed at a slower speed. Apart from that, the film looks to be of good quality and there are some occasional clever camera angles to spice things up a little.
There are a number of extras that come with the DVD. There are some alternative endings, which I found incredibly annoying, but then once I've been given an ending, I don't like it to be rewritten, so that could just be a personal thing. However, none of them were really any more inspiring than the real one we got. Then there's a short video diary made by the director, involving a series of promotional videos for the film. The cast interviews are worth watching if you're a fan of any of the main actors, probably not otherwise. Then there is a trailer, TV spots (more promotional stuff) and storyboards, which is simply a series of pictures representing specific scenes. Finally, there is an audio commentary.
I was generally disappointed with this film, because it just didn't grab me as much as I was expecting. I also can't help but think that fictional films such as these about cloning are probably going to do more damage than good - the majority of us will know that it is fiction, but there are always a handful who believe everything that they see. On the other hand, it isn't a terrible film, so if the synopsis appeals, you might just enjoy it. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 102 minutes
Summary: Average, despite Robert de Niro's presence