Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel and Rosalie Craig appear in a still from The Pod Generation by Sophie Barthes, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Andrij Parekh.
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Sundance Film Festival Review: ‘The Pod Generation’ Doesn’t Have Nearly As Much to Say As It Thinks It Does

Science Fiction at the Sundance Film Festival usually relies more on ideas than on a massive budget for scope. That’s wonderful, to be sure, but it does actually require enough ideas and for them to be well developed enough to support a movie. Sadly, The Pod Generation comes up a bit short in that regard. There are enough tidbits here to suggest a really interesting film, but the end result at the fest leaves you wanting more.

The Pod Generation is very much a first draft of a heartier final product. Had that happened, then instead of moments that hint at something better, we’d consistently be getting something better. So, in a way, while this isn’t quite a bad flick, it’s such a frustrating one that you wind up being more annoyed at it than you otherwise would have been.

Set in a future New York, tech giant Pegazus has developed a revolution in pregnancy. Now, instead of a woman carrying a child, a pod can do it for you. Old fashioned Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) finds the whole thing troubling, while his partner Rachel (Emilia Clarke) has secretly put her name on the wait list, encouraged to do so at work in order to maintain her climb to the top. When their number gets called, a debate over what to do begins.

Listening to both sides of the debate, they initially begin firmly on their own individual territories. However, once they arrive at a decision, each of them begin to move in opposite directions. With technology evolving to the point of so many human emotions and interactions being obsolete, is actually birthing a baby one of the last bastiens of being truly alive?

I really wish that Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor had more to do here. They have solid chemistry together, but their characters aren’t three dimensional to bond with, and that’s pretty essential here. Clarke and especially Ejiofor can paper over some of the issues, but not enough of them to save the day. Supporting players include Rosalie Craig, Kathryn Hunter, Vinette Robinson, and more, but it’s largely focused on Clarke and Ejiofor.

Filmmaker Sophie Barthes wants to say something with The Pod Generation, but she comes up short. Individual moments in her script hint at it, like when a character mentions offhand that the government no longer funds education, but by and large, this is way thinner than intended. Bland direction by Barthes also prevents the sci-fi trappings from coming alive at all.

The Pod Generation truly desires to be a savage comedic satire, but it never comes together. Here and there, it works, but mostly, it just sort of meanders along. That makes it among the most forgettable of Sundance titles this year, even if it’s far from the worst of the lot. It just has so much less to say than expected.

SCORE: ★★1/2


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Written by Joey Magidson

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