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‘The Pod Generation’ review [Sundance 2023]

Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor offer up some strong performances in this film set in a future where babies can be nurtured and grown outside of a woman’s body in a special pod. This vision of the future sure is ambitious but the point it tries to make is sadly laboured.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Andrij Parekh.

The Pod Generation reaches for the stars in terms of aspiration – the production design is wonderful and the images created of a future that is both familiar and very distant. It looks absolutely beautiful, Belgium stepping in for a late 21st-century New York City, Andrij Parekh’s stunning cinematography is a marvel to take in, but the script sure does feel strung out as we witness this futuristic baby grow synthetically.

Clarke plays the role of Rachel, a very successful young businesswoman who longs for a baby. She’s under pressure at work to consistently push herself, which probably means putting plans for children on hold but has secretly added herself to the long waiting list of The Womb Center, unbeknownst to her husband, Alvy (Ejiofor). She’s someone who has embraced modern technology, from in-home apps and online AI assistants to virtual therapists and masks supplying oxygen on the curbside. Alvy is quite the opposite, turning off his version of Alexa in the mornings as it attempts to cook him toast and make coffee (telling him off for not saying thank you), and growing houseplants, something so normal today, but in this future, something has been nearly totally replaced by holographic plants. He’s also a botanist by profession and also has a house outside of the city on a forest-filled natural island, a property that he cannot quite let go of, despite his in-laws urging him to do so.

The couple eventually agrees with each other to proceed with the new technology to have their baby, the film documents the following nine months and the challenges it throws up.

There are tons of great ideas contained within this story, the narrative clearly a satire on many things, including surrogacy, a new choice for women who want to concentrate on careers rather than give up time to have a child, and many more – in fact, all elements of the pregnancy period. However, once you’re past the initial setup and the conception of the piece, the story kind of just fizzles out with no kind of conclusion, besides the obvious. It lacks depth in the story and despite the many ideas and suggestions that it offers up, there’s not much more to it than that.

It’s beautiful to look at, sure. The acting is top-notch and has lots of ambition but it doesn’t quite make the heights it so desperately wants to reach.

The Pod Generation was reviewed at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

The Pod Generation

Paul Heath



Lots of great ideas do not a good movie make, but this one has lots of ambition, looks beautiful, and has some great performances, too.



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