In Sophie Barthes’ 2009 debut novel, cold soul, medicine has achieved the ability to extract and exchange human souls, despite complications. In her new film, pod generation, technology has once again turned against nature, this time usurping the pregnancy experience and doing away with all the nasty downsides like morning sickness and stretch marks. It’s a provocative premise, rife with philosophical questions, and the French-born writer-director builds her carefully crafted concept with skill and coherence. She also has engaging leads in Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who find subtle comedy without forcing it. But cool-headed sci-fi is a difficult subgenre to pull off.
With its sleek late-21st-century design and hilarious reflections on corporate AI technology replacing real human experience, the film best recalls Spike Jonze’s she. But it lacks the heart and genuine yearning that make this sci-fi romance so stunning. There’s also the issue of tone; once the setup kicks in, the humor becomes flat, garrulously flat, just as the central couple’s plight should gather steam.
the bottom line
Babies R Us.
New Yorkers Rachel (Clark) and Alvie (Ejiofor) seem to have formed a harmonious alliance based on fundamental opposition. Her career is on the rise at a diverse tech company where it seems like everyone is wearing Thom Browne; he likes to hang out in his greenhouse in old T-shirts and cardigans, teaching college students the wonders of botany while resisting biological An effort to cut costs by switching to holographic flora.
Their home is run by an all-powerful AI assistant named Elena, who prepares their breakfast, chooses their clothes, monitors their “happiness quotient” and reminds Rachel when she’s late for her natural time she.
This includes relaxing in nature, the pods are tree-like structures with green cocoons to snuggle into while watching videos of ocean waves; or hanging out at a fresh air bar with an oxygen mask attached to a kind of terrarium. There are some interesting observations about humans’ growing distance from and distrust of nature, especially when Alvy’s students are reluctant to taste a fig grown from a real tree that wasn’t made in 3D Made by the printer.
After Rachel got her promotion, there was concern that wanting to expand her family might stymie her career momentum. But it offers perks in the form of corporate financial assistance and the possibility of fast-tracking through a waiting list for a new branch called Uterus Center.
This on-demand service takes the hassle out of a woman’s womb and nurtures the baby from fertilization to birth in a synthetic egg-shaped pod. Fetuses are stimulated by music, podcasts, literature, and sound therapy, in addition to sensitizing their sense of taste to a variety of foods.
Czar, who is at the helm of the umbrella company Pegazus (Jean-Marc Barr), sees the development as a necessary corrective to falling fertility rates, allowing women to focus on professional fulfillment. But there is also a quietly insidious suggestion of shaping the next generation of malleable corporate puppets, as Pegazus also stepped in to fund and manage education after the government stopped.
Given Alvi’s outspoken feelings about the commodification of contemporary life and the resulting social-emotional deprivation, Rachel was slow to reveal the news after she applied to and secured a place at the Womb Center.
She worries that Alvy will like her AI therapist, a big eye in a wreath of flowers, to give birth naturally, and her response is to ask why tech alternatives are considered less natural? Rachel even shows the company around and pays a deposit before dropping the bombshell on a panicked Alvi, which is understandable. But after an agitated back and forth, he agreed to move on.
Their interaction with Uterus Center director Linda Wozcheck is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Played by London stage star Rosalie Craig, she covers the edge of fragile condescension with a glassy professional warmth as Rachel and Alvy begin to question the agreement. This happens after they bring their pods home and bond with them, and as the due date approaches, they become reluctant to return them to the hatchery.
While Clark and Ejiofor bring a light touch to their interactions, the script becomes a bit schematic as their attitudes begin to shift, swapping places for a while. Alvy became inseparable from the pod, strapping it to his body with a specially designed harness, which left Rachel worried that his attachment was too persistent. But as her dreams became more connected to nature, she became more and more obsessed with the life they were cooking, causing her productivity to drop and she was warned not to be a “distracted mother”.
Rachel’s co-worker and friend Alice (Vinette Robinson) expresses her feminist views, and she’s also looking forward to having a pod baby with her partner Ben (Jelle Deborah). By freeing women from reproductive responsibility, she says, penis envy can now be replaced by male uterus envy, putting the sexes on a more equal footing — which only makes sense if you don’t think about it for too long. Elsewhere, groups of feminist activists could be seen protesting, waving signs reading “Don’t Let Your Hands Leave Our Wombs”.
Where the movie loses steam is when Rachel and Alvie refuse to stick with the Womb Center procedure, despite Linda effectively reminding them that they have no control because the company retains ownership of the pod; they’re just renters.
Once the omnipotence of the corporate overlord is established, Bart infuses the anticipation of the dark transition into thriller territory. But instead, the action hovers toward a routine happy ending, offering the assurance that love and nature will prevail, even if everything up to that point suggests it’s been outsourced. It feels like the movie runs out of ideas before it’s over; a more sinister note might leave viewers with something to chew on.
That said, it’s certainly worth a watch – with plenty of polish on the architectural and design details of the Clement Price-Thomas set, shot in muted tones by Andrij Parekh in a reassuringly barren world. There’s a lot of understated whimsical quality to Evgueni and Sacha Galperine’s electronic score, occasionally reminiscent of the work of French duo Air and Sofia Coppola. But for all the pretty believable conjectures of all the movies about technology making nature obsolete and procreation a privilege of the rich, pod generation Never fully hatch.