Doctor Who's Matt Smith fails to convince in this mind-numbingly slow drama.
As with 2011's meta sci-fi indie, Another Earth, Benedek Fleigauf's Clone (which was originally titled Womb) attempts to merge genre concerns with a bizarre, yearning tale of love, death and incest. Yet, the 20-second blank screen which arrives directly after the opening credits is perhaps a red flag as to the film’s ultimate lack of substance.
Rebecca and Tommy are childhood friends. They are on the cusp of a sexual awakening which is scuppered when Rebecca moves to Japan with her family. She returns to Tommy (Doctor Who’s Matt Smith) as an adult (Eva Green) and they share a few intimate moments before he is killed in a car crash.
Rather than recognise that he is gone forever, Rebecca decides to give birth to his genetic copy. Never a good idea, it transpires. What follows is lots of charged eye contact and seriously awkward bath times as Tommy grows into the exact image of the man she loved.
Director Benedek Fliegauf raises plenty of thought-provoking ethical queries, though, unfortunately, the large majority of them are left unanswered. What could have been a probing exploration of love and ethics lacks any real depth. We are confined to the lovers' shack on a desolate beach, filmed in northern Germany. All we know about this ‘future world’ is that cloning is possible yet frowned upon.
The cinematography is extremely stylish, boasting beautiful panoramic shots of the crystalline beachfront. Having said that, it takes an incredibly stagnant storyline to make a grey German beach sparkle. The pace is absurdly glacial, best summed up by one of the film’s recurring images: a snail.
The characters, too, lack texture. Rebecca is particularly barren: She remains silent for most of the film, making it impossible to forge any emotional connection with her. Also, she doesn’t appear to age a day in two decades, which does make you question who is cloned and who is 'human'.
Matt Smith’s performance is equally unconvincing. Within minutes he flips from mimicking a jovial spaniel high on blue Smarties to an angry nutcase attacking a table with a saltshaker. A toy dinosaur gives the most persuasive performance, its burial in the sand is the most touching moment this odd and infuriating film has to offer.
A thought provoking exploration of love and ethics or a creepy Oedipal romp?
The beautiful visuals are the saving grace of this mind-numbingly slow script.
The only thing which would make this film more awkward is watching it with your parents.