By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Impressing writing, skillful dlrection and an incredible, transcendent performance by Mahershala Ali make Swan Song a must-see science fiction drama. Written and directed by Benjamin Cleary, the film tells the tragic story of a loving and good-hearted man facing his untimely demise due to a terminal illness. As this movie takes place in the future, the science of this world offers some people (probably with deep pockets) the opportunity at a new lease in life through cloning. While the film does delve into the ethics of cloning, it mostly focuses on the personal experience of its protagonist as he is about to hand over the reigns of his life to his exact duplicate. What follows is a very intimate and heartbreaking journey as Ali’s character struggles with letting go of his life as he knows it and placing it in the hands of his identical copy.
Ali stars as Cameron Turner, a successful artist who has had a mostly satisfying and happy life with his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris) and young son Cory (Dax Rey). That isn’t to say that the Turners haven’t had their problems and obstacles, but the loving couple have risen above their troubles and look forward to a happier future. This, of course, gets derailed when Cameron gets gravely ill and has only a limited to live. Science has an answer and “solution” to this problem, though. A successful, but still young, cloning business gives the dying an opportunity to replace their ailing selves with an identical clone, who through intensive training can take over without the loved ones knowing any better. Desperate to protect his family and spare them the heartbreak of his loss, Cameron agrees to the process, but as he begins going through it, he starts to have second thoughts and struggles with the idea of totally turning his life over to “someone else.”
Writer/director Benjamin Cleary delivers a mostly visionary movie with a compelling and heart breaking movie with some genuinely human moments. Cleary’s direction, and the impressive production design by his crew give the movie gorgeous visuals that often enhance the tone and emotions of the film. There is definitely an appropriatly cold, clinical quality to the look of the scenes involving the organization performing the clone replacement, but these are juxtaposed with the powerful and lovely moments of real humanity. The movie does tend to force its protagonist to wallow a little too much in self-pity, but this the only flaw. Regardless of this, Swan Song should have an unforgettable impact on the hearts of its audiences, and this is mostly thanks to the incredible acting of Mahershala Ali.
Ali, who not only portrays the original Cameron Turner, also takes on the role of the clone and brings the perfect awkward and disoriented traits one would expect from a clone brought to life and becoming self aware of his purpose. Ali handles both roles beautifully and powerfully and should, at least, receive some nominations during awards season. The movie also can boast a powerful and lovable turn by Naomie Harris, Cameron’s loving and passionate wife Poppy. Poppy has a palpable lust for life and brings much joy and excitement to the relationship. On the other side of things, she takes heartbreak, loss and sadness rather hard and in some debilitating ways. Cameron cannot bear to put Poppy though this experience and she is the main catalyst for his decision to undergo the cloning process. The movie also features great performances by Awkwafina, Glenn Close, Adam Beach, Nayasha Atendi, and Dax Rey.
Swan Song is not only getting a limited theatrical release, it is also be available on Apple TV+. It is a movie I highly recommend as a powerful piece of dramatic science fiction. Fans of Mahershala Ali will be in store for yet another wonderful performance by the actor.