Two Mahershala Alis in one interesting cloning movie.
There have been two movies with the same title of “Swan Song.” There was Todd Stephens’ gay drama with Udo Kier igniting the screen as a hairdresser returning to his roots, although the script could have been better; and now, there’s Benjamin Cleary’s futuristic drama that reunites “Moonlight” actors Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris.
It’s no “Moonlight,” because it’s not that deep or enriching, but it does have the artisan looks of the future as well as some of its routine ideas. This one is about cloning. Yes, we’ve seen it before….countless times! But never through Ali. Also a producer, he’s able to portray both roles with a certain kind of integrity and personality. Benjamin Cleary, who is known for his short films (including the Oscar-winning “Shutterer”), makes his feature debut with a ravishing look at the future, and he knows how to guide the leading man.
Ali plays Cameron, a man dying of cancer, who reluctantly decides to have a clone of himself, named Jack, developed by Dr. Jo Scott (Glenn Close) and Dalton (Adam Beach), instead of telling his wife (Harris) and son the sad truth.
Close gives him an option of spending a week with his clone, and he meets a clone version of Kate (Awkwafina), so he can see for himself. With a new baby on the way, and his son needing a father figure, he decides to undergo the cloning observation. Among Cameron’s memories, Jack (remember: that’s the clone) remembers his brother-in-law Andre (Nyasia Hatendi) dying in an accident, and how he met his wife and raised a family.
Of course, the man and his copy have to argue about what is real and what is fake, but it’s much more affective than another cloning Indie “My Zoe” or even major bombs like “Morgan,” “Gemini Man,” and “Replicas.”
“Swan Song” is a great-looking movie with impressive visuals. Of course, we have to get those futuristic cars, but we also have apps, screens, text messages, and notifications levitating. There’s also a train robot, who gives Cameron his daily coffee and candy bar. And when he and his son have to be separate, they can play video games with the CGI fighters going one-on-on on the floor. It’s usually amazing to see how small films can accomplish big things that taking visual ideas to new heights.
Again, the story is not that deep or complex, but it does show some sentimentality in regards to the two Alis, and never resorts to violence and plot twists. The movie cares about both Cameron and Jack, and they both are able to acknowledge their own natures without overshadowing one another. Awkwafina, who has proven herself to be a serious actress, too, with “The Farewell,” is able to add some class as both the real Kate and her copy. And Close also adds value and persistence to her character and Ali’s double roles.
“Swan Song” is almost like “Her” in the ways it shows us different visions of the future without relying on only the special effects and images to keep us glued, but rather the complex personalities of the characters, and where they want to head into. I know these movies have different topics, but in a way, I feel like they have the same atmosphere and ambiance.
In Select Theaters and Streaming on AppleTV+ This Friday