There’s no escaping the fact that writer/director Benjamin Cleary’s debut film, Swan Song, feels very familiar. This “lo-fi sci-fi” film, set in the not-too-distant future, deals not with aliens and robots, but instead grapples with a much more subtle approach to how the advances of technology impact human lives, very reminiscent of several recent films and television shows, such as Black Mirror, Ex Machina and Devs. Where Cleary’s narrative diverges into its own territory, however, is in his approach to the subject. While most recent thoughtful sci-fi films have offered up cautionary tales, Cleary’s screenplay chooses to explore the emotional impact of technology on our lives much more than the physical. And while that makes it a much more significant theoretical experience, it unfortunately proves to be a slightly more tedious one as well.
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali plays Cameron, a happily married family man who seems to have it all. His wife, Poppy, played by Naomie Harris, is newly pregnant with their second child, and all is well. But what Cameron hasn’t told Poppy is that he’s dying and his oncologist has given him the name of a clinic that could offer him a unique opportunity to eliminate any of the pain for his family that would come from Cameron’s illness and death. After visiting the clinic, run by the enigmatic Dr. Scott (played by Glenn Close), Cameron has to make a decision that will affect his family’s life forever.