The future. Driverless cars, implants that contain phones, screens floating in mid-air, crystal clear video calls without a device and clones of you ready to step in should you be dying before your time.
This is what Apple TV’s latest movie Swan Song deals with. How far will a person go to spare his family from the grief of his own death and, in the process, what will that do to his own sense of self, loss and grief?
But before that we meet Cameron, Mahershala Ali (“Alita: Battle Angel”, “True Detective (TV)”), an artist/graphic designer and his pregnant wife Poppy, Naomie Harris (“Venom: Let There Be Carnage”, “No Time To Die”), and their son Cory, Dax Rey (“Unicorn”, “Pump (TV)”).
They live in a nice neighbourhood in a nice house. He helps design packaging whilst she works with children with learning disabilities, writing music for them to help them. There’s even a family dog who follows Cameron around.
But not all is as it seems, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors and in this case, Cameron is not well. He keeps having seizures but he’s kept them from Poppy thus far. Instead, he got in touch with Arras House.
When he arrives at Arras House, a stunning place on a cliff side by a lake, he’s greeted by Dr. Jo Scott, Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”, “Four Good Days”), and introduced to Dalton, Adam Beach (“The New Mutants”, “Nancy Drew (TV)”), the resident psychiatrist and head technician.
They talk about ‘him’ and ‘he’ and Scott assures Cameron that, should Cameron change his mind, not want to go through with this, ‘he’ won’t leave this house. She also assure him ‘he’ won’t have the problems Cameron is having, with his seizures. Then they give him a name, Jack.
He’s taken into a room to see himself, Jack, sitting on a chair looking asleep. It’s a molecularly generated duplicate, from Cameron’s DNA, of himself. Cameron looks Jack over, touches him but he has doubts about proceeding and Scott has to talk him around.
She gets Cameron to meet one of the other two duplicates currently in the world, Kate, Awkwafina (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, “Jumanji: The Next Level”), who no longer knows she’s a duplicate. Neither Cameron, nor Kate’s daughter, can tell either and later Cameron meets the real Kate, back at Arras House, living out what’s left of her life before her illness takes her away.
In order to make this happen, first they must put all of Cameron’s memories into Jack, forcing Cameron to relive them. When they wake Jack, Scott tells him there’s a freckle on his left hand, the only difference between the two.
When the two meet, awake this time, Jack starts to tell Cameron a memory that only they would know. Jack believes he’s Cameron, Cameron is Cameron. After a few days the trio call Poppy with Jack taking point and Poppy has no idea there’s anything different.
Cameron doesn’t like it though, you can see him getting jealous and he ends the call abruptly. Jack and Cameron argue or, to put it another way, Cameron argues with himself. Cameron decides to return home, just for three days, but when he arrives he has a massive seizure and they manage to bring him back before Poppy even knew he was outside.
Scott makes a decision, Jack is ready, he goes to Poppy, she’s expecting Cameron. Dalton has concerns but they send him back and when Cameron, the real Cameron wakes, he is pissed and spends his time watching the live feed from Jack’s contact lenses.
But Cameron is getting more and more paranoid, he senses something is wrong. Will he jeopardise the whole thing? Can he control his own emotions enough to be the one that gets left behind and allow his family to move on with their lives?
Swan Song is a beautifully shot movie, written and directed by Benjamin Cleary (“Wave (Short)”, “Stutterer (Short)”) it features so few people that they all need to be on their a-game and they are.
Ali is great as Cameron and Jack, coming to terms with everything he’s going through, this different, this potentially new normal. Awkwafina meanwhile continues to impress in everything she does, this time a much more serious role than perhaps we’ve seen her in before and she does it wonderfully, a little underused if anything in my humble opinion.
Swan Song is a thought provoking and fascinating take on grief and those we leave behind. If you could spare your loved ones the grief, but put yourself through it, would you? Or spend your final moments with them doing the things you love? Choose your Swan Song.
17th December 2021
THE QUICK SELL
In the near future, Cameron Turner is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Presented with an experimental solution to shield his wife and son from grief, he grapples with altering their fate in this exploration of love, loss, and sacrifice.