Clone Returns Home played at Montreal's 2009
Fantasia Film Festival. For the ratings, click HERE.
C. Prince reviews films at cinemastrikesback.com.
Clone Returns Home is not for everyone. Although it was
billed by critics as one of the top “must see”
works at Sundance, it is at heart a capital-A art film that
will appeal to a very limited audience. Put more plainly,
this film is extraordinarily ‘slow.’ For example,
the film includes what I think of as the ultimate ‘film
festival scene’ — a scene that is tolerated and
even celebrated at film festivals, but would be booed off
the screen in any kind of normal theater environment. The
classic film festival scene is a staple of The Clone Returns
Home and goes something like this: we see a giant field,
or beach or other large open expanse. From the far side of
the screen, we notice someone walk into frame. Since we’re
so far away we may not even realize at first that it is a
person. Then, lucky us, we get to watch in real time as this
person slowly walks across the field or beach or whatever
over several eon-bearing minutes. During such scenes, there
is often no dialogue, no plot development, and nothing to
invest our attention capital in. Think of it charitably as
a chance to reflect on what happened in the previous scene
(since there is nothing else to do), or less charitably as
an informal bathroom break. That kind of (contrived) sequence
is typical of the film festival fare, and it occurs several
times in The Clone Returns Home. Not everyone refuses
it, I’m assured, and extremely patient audiences may
enjoy it, but my guess is many people will find it tedious.
is a shame because the film serves up several engaging philosophical
concepts (lurking in between takes of people slowly crossing
fields), which I would have enjoyed even more had the ideas
been subjected to tighter editing.
as the thinking person’s sci-fi film, it tells the story
of Kohei, a young astronaut who agrees to take out an insurance
policy so that in the event he accidentally dies, a clone
will be made of him, which will enable him to continue to
live and to provide for his loved ones.
addition to the ethical debates raised by the concept of cloning
in general, it turns out there are all sorts of technical
problems to producing a clone. To begin with, the first Kohei
clone to be produced is too perfect — he remembers everything
from earlier in his life, including many things that are better
left forgotten (especially an incident involving his brother
which has always haunted him). (Alert = small spoiler ahead)
So the company decides to go ahead and produce another clone,
thinking the first, failed clone had died. Soon, however,
clones are bumping into each other, and it turns out there
is a strange ‘resonance’ that affects clones and
allows them to hear things other people can‘t —
all of which ends up being very confusing for those in the
audience who are still awake.
full disclosure, I did start to nod off on this one, but I
tend to think of that as a film festival’s version of
natural selection — for those of us running around seeing
films from early in the morning until well after midnight.
The great movies captivate us and keep us awake no matter
how tired we are, but if a movie is overly slow, dull or otherwise
a stinker, no matter how hard we might try, we start to nod
off. I hate it when that happens, but it is an efficient alert
system in detecting a dull or unremarkable movie.