Cloning is such an unsettling and outlandish prospect that it naturally lends itself to sinister adventures (and generally farce). However “Swan Music,” a science-fiction drama written and directed by Benjamin Cleary, posits a state of affairs of doubling that’s simply as a lot about buying emotional intelligence as it’s about reckoning with existential and sensible ramifications.
Cameron (Mahershala Ali) is an ailing graphic designer who doesn’t have lengthy to reside. Detest to desert his spouse, Poppy (Naomie Harris), and their younger son, he secretly undertakes a process that may create a reproduction of himself — bodily an identical, possessing his recollections, but wholesome. However will the double actually be Cameron in any significant sense, or will he merely be fulfilling Cameron’s function in life? Will his household even discover? And is Cameron OK with that?
After an particularly scary fainting episode, the swap is about to occur in a secluded compound on a lake, the place the caring-but-firm scientist (Glenn Shut) assures Cameron that this form of factor will quickly be frequent. We get a way of the time interval’s science-fiction parameters by way of a mixture of banal and mildly “Black Mirror” particulars: driverless automobiles are a rule, speaking droids serve snacks on trains, and speak to lenses can document and transmit what you see.
Cleary’s story walks us by way of the steps of Cameron’s transition. He meets his new doppelgänger within the flesh — quickly named Jack — and uploads his recollections. Delicate comedian aid comes from Cameron’s hangouts with a not too long ago transitioned particular person (Awkwafina) on the compound. We get glimpses of Cameron’s household life and its strains, in addition to a flashback to his meet-cute with Poppy, all of it suggesting how grief, perception and love would possibly tackle unfamiliar types with new technological prospects.
However any mind-bending conceit or particular impact pales earlier than Ali’s extremely fine-tuned abilities. Taking part in reverse a digital reproduction of oneself virtually doesn’t advantage remark anymore, however Cameron and Jack are an entrancing research within the subtlest shifts in power and feeling. When Cameron first meets his clone, the welter of apprehension, curiosity and concern is obvious on Cameron’s face, however Ali’s crowning contact is Jack’s faint expression of sympathy towards the person he’ll substitute.
Ali’s focus and presence makes us imagine that each of those males are equally alive and feeling the brunt of this deeply uncanny predicament. That is much less a conceptual thumbsucker than a tightly targeted, virtually miniaturist drama about shifting on. At any time when one thing goes awry, we fear much less about Pandora’s field dystopia than concerning the psychological toll of Cameron’s limbo. Maybe extra so than any movie that’s obtained the tagline, it’s successfully about being true to your self.
Rated R for heated language. Working time: 1 hour 52 minutes. In theaters and on Apple TV+.