SWAN SONG is directed by Benjamin Cleary. The film stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Awkwafina, and Glenn Close. This film is not to be confused with the Todd Stephens film of the same name, also released in 2021.
In the not-so-distant future, technology has made great leaps. Robots and self-driving cars are commonplace, and a company has developed a program in which healthy clones can be born to replace someone dying, allowing their families to go on living comfortably and happily while the patient gets the care they need. When family man Cameron Turner finds himself terminally ill, he considers the program, but finds himself torn between what decision is truly best for him and his loved ones.
SWAN SONG presents an interesting not-so-distant future world and a moral quandary of the most interesting kind. The effects and set-pieces are fantastic, as is the casting. Unfortunately, SWAN SONG goes in too many different directions and can’t decide what it wants to be. Its problems range from a sloppy narrative structure to overly sappy melodrama, and a lack of world-building for the domain it introduces us to.
I’ll give SWAN SONG credit for its casting; the couple portrayed by Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are convincing enough in their performances; if nothing else I truly did believe these two were a couple, and they’ve got decent chemistry in the comedic and dramatic sequences alike. The always-entertaining Awkwafina is underused as another person undergoing the cloning process who Ali’s character befriends, yet she still gets the movie’s best scenes and biggest laughs despite limited screen time.
The look of the movie is equally impressive, painting a picture of a believable future in which people have access to exotic but believable technology including self-driving cars. We’ve seen so many visions of the future in cinema, and this is honestly one that I could understand becoming reality 20 years down the line.
But other aspects of the film don’t fare nearly as well, and the end result is a monumental disappointment. The narrative structure is one of the most sloppy of recent memory, making no effort to differentiate flashbacks from the “present” in which the movie takes place. It’s a headache trying to keep up with it all, and too often it descends into generic melodrama that would be at home more in any other film.
Perhaps the biggest sin committed by SWAN SONG is it doesn’t take the time to develop the world in which it’s set. I loved the world that this movie introduced us too. Hell, I can envision this being the real world in two decades! But these elements have to take a backseat to dime-a-dozen terminal illness subplots that are in a million other movies. I should’ve been in awe of the world offered here and all the special effects. Instead I found myself bored and looking down at my watch throughout the movie. It never becomes the movie it should, which is disappointing giving the potential and the cast!
I wanted to like SWAN SONG. The effects and cast are great, but the production is a monumental bore that can’t get its priorities straight. It’s sloppy in its narrative structure, it’s dreadfully boring, and it never makes full use of the assets it has, including an A-list cast and effects that build a believable future. Skip this one.