Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor help hold The Pod Generation together, even when the satirical science fiction romantic comedy starts to get repetitive.
The trailer for The Pod Generation certainly got me to raise my eyebrows. I mean, I adore Emilia Clarke and pairing her with Chiwetel Ejiofor seemed like a smart decision. Then there is the premise, which certainly opened up a world of possibilities.
Even though not everything hits the mark, the finished product is fascinating enough to make this film worth at least one watch. Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor are wonderful together and their performances truly bring life to this narrative. Without the two of them, anything that The Pod Generation has to say would be rendered, well, not meaningless, but Clarke and Ejiofor make every point have more of an impact.
Written and directed by Sophie Barthes, The Pod Generation centers on Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and her husband, Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who live in a futuristic version of New York. The couple go on their own interesting journey to parenthood when they decide to have a child using a new tool developed by a tech giant called Pegazus. Narratively speaking, the film has quite a bit to say. Sophie Barthes has written a script that will make the viewer ponder several questions. While not all the questions posed are necessarily new, this is certainly a unique way to explore them. One of the key points is how we as humans are continuing to become more reliant on technology, perhaps excessively so. How far are we going to go and how long until we become too out of touch with nature? Is that even a bad thing?
These are a few of the questions that Rachel and Alvy face on their journey to parenthood in The Pod Generation. This script written by Barthes uses their unconventional path to becoming parents to comment on the current state of our relationship with technology as humans. I enjoyed the satirical angle that was taken, and the comedy was solid enough. You see this interesting vision of the future that seems almost too good to be true, and yet, the more that you think about it, we are dangerously close to what is being depicted on screen. I loved the production design and how everything felt/looked futuristic and yet it also had hints of the present day. For example, Rachel’s company makes a product that seems like a more advanced version of Amazon’s Alexa.
That is part of what makes the satire hit harder. The film also dives into parenthood, what makes a parent, and the pressures that come with it. Ejiofor’s Alvy is at first hesitant to accept the idea of having a child via the pod. He is a character that is much more in tune with nature, in fact, Alvy is a botanist. His arc represents those that are much wearier of technological advances, and it is interesting to watch him evolve once the duo decides to move forward with the process. He also serves as a picture of those that may want to be a parent but are afraid of potentially messing up while raising this little human that did not ask to be brought into the world.
Ejiofor really makes his character’s development believable to the viewer with his performance. Each part of it feels realistic, and ultimately is in line with what the script tells us about Alvy. He and Clarke also bring an authentic portrayal of a couple to the screen. They are not perfect, but they both have a clear love for each other, and a desire to expand their family, even if they might not agree on how to go about it to begin with. Yes, they hit on a couple of romantic comedy couple tropes, but they are intriguing enough as a pair and individually to root for.
On the other side, The Pod Generation gives us Rachel and her arc. She is incredibly talented, on the verge of a promotion, and it seems like every aspect of her life is thriving. Yet, her constant dreams leave the character sure that something is missing from her life, a child. She and Alvy have apparently tried to conceive before the film begins and have not had success. Part of the reason for that seems to be because Rachel is so focused on her job. This is a dilemma that many women face in the real world, being forced to choose between work and having a family. She is then presented with an option that should allow her to have both, and despite her husband’s reluctance, she chooses to conceive a child with him via the pod.
What Rachel does not realize is that choosing conception via the pod has its own challenges. She begins to realize just what she is missing by not physically having the baby herself, and that bonding with a pod is not a cakewalk for a working woman, no matter how hard she tries. The technology vs nature question is really at work with Rachel as well and Clarke really sells several layers of conflict within her character. Her brilliant showcase of Rachel’s emotions makes the eventual resolution of her arc feel satisfying by the time that The Pod Generation ends.
The resolution is where The Pod Generation nearly comes apart at the seams. Just when you think things are about to wrap up and reach a conclusion that is more than satisfactory, the rug is pulled out from under you and the film just continues. It is almost as if Sophie Barthes was not sure what ending fit the film best. So, rather than end it, she hits the reset button, and our main characters unlearn what they had either learned earlier in the narrative or have a new source of conflict out of nowhere. This leaves the film, which is only 109 minutes long, feeling like it is much longer as it slogs to the finish line.
If not for Clarke and Ejiofor’s performances, the ending to this story would have felt so unsatisfactory. What starts as a creative mix of ideas surrounding two characters makes you question if you have seen the film before because frankly, you have in the previous hour. If just a tad was trimmed off the runtime, you might be looking at one of my favorite films of 2023 to date, instead of one that is just simply fine.
The Pod Generation is interesting enough, with its satirical commentary on the role that technology plays in our lives, and on parenthood. Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performances in the lead roles also make sticking around worthwhile even as the narrative begins to slightly wear out its welcome.
The Pod Generation will be released in US theaters on August 11, 2023.