out of Five
Running time: 107
Beautifully shot and intriguingly written, this is a slow-burning, deeply weird drama with terrific central performances from Eva Green and a pre-Doctor Who Matt Smith.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Benedek Fliegauf, Clone (which was called Womb when it played at the London Film Festival) begins with two lonely children (Ruby O Fee as Rebecca and Tristan Christopher as Tommy) striking up a close friendship in their seaside town, only for the pair to be separated when Rebecca is sent to live with her mother in Tokyo. Twelve years later, Rebecca (now played by Eva Green) returns and tracks down Tommy (now played by Matt Smith) and the pair become lovers, only for their relationship to again come to an abrupt end when Tommy is killed in a tragic accident.
However, despite Tommy's mother (Lesley Manville) being against the idea, Rebecca impulsively decides to give birth to Tommy's clone, eventually moving him to a remote seaside cottage where she discovers that the locals consider her young son (Tristan Christopher again) a second class citizen. Isolated from society, the pair grow closer and closer, but when adolescent Tommy (Matt Smith again) finds a girlfriend (Hannah Murray as Monica), Rebecca is forced to confront the consequences of her actions.
Eva Green is perfectly cast as Rebecca – there's enough of a hint of madness in her eyes to make her actions seem entirely believable, while her pale, haunted expression in later scenes effectively conveys her full horror at what she's done. Matt Smith (who shot this before he was cast as Doctor Who) is equally good as both Tommys and he has a very Doctor Who-like scene where he babbles excitedly about the universe to a not-particuarly-interested Monica, as well as some decidedly non-Doctor Who-like scenes, such as wandering around in yellow pants or going skinny-dipping.
The film is beautifully shot throughout, with cinematographer Péter Szatmári making striking use of both the windswept beach landscapes and the perpetually grey skies above. In addition, the slow-burning script takes an intriguingly stripped down approach, unfolding with minimal dialogue and unannounced, almost dream-like drifts forward in time as the tension gradually builds.
Needless to say, this is a deeply weird film and it won't be to everyone's taste (just as some may find the pacing off-putting); it's also slightly let down by a disappointingly low-key ending, and deliberately rejects several potentially emotional scenes.
With gorgeous camerawork and strong performances from its two leads, Clone is a haunting and disturbing drama that marks writer-director Fliegauf out as a talent to watch. Worth seeing.