Although it doesn’t represent the actual description of external reality, there is often constant conjunction of science fiction and philosophical notions. Much like literature, science fiction films position viewers in futuristic distant lands and extraordinarily imaginative events that raise a number of questions about our relationship to the universe. What does it mean to be human? Is it possible to preserve the genetics of a perishing species? And here comes the bigger question; What implication do the answers to these questions have on our concern with normative moral responsibilities?
Benjamin Cleary’s “Swan Song” allows viewers to scrutinize a swarm of possible answers — inducing them in self-reflection within an informed framework of a larger societal and personal standpoint. This future-set drama follows a terminally ill man Cameron (Mahershala Ali in his first lead role and feature producer) who considers genetically cloning himself down to his molecular DNA and deep subconscious memories into a healthy replicate.
Cameron initially pursues that option, despite a crisis of conscience and an existential dilemma, to spare his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris) and his young son (Day Rex) the devastating loss of his imminent death – the agony of living without him. Earlier, Poppy has been ravaged by the loss following the death of her twin brother Andre. This leads her to a severe bout of depression while she is two months pregnant with their second child. Cameron can’t bear the thought of leaving her with the everyday struggles of single motherhood, let alone her long-lasting battle with mental illness.
Loaded with an undeniable plethora of philosophical appeals that underpin how it represents the nature of reproductive cloning
That’s the premise of Cleary’s first feature debut, which taps on the staggering fatality of death and self-sacrifice; or the lack thereof, along with Cameron’s existential distress in the fate-altering scenario as he literally helps fabricate a clone to take his place in the family unit.
Once the premise is established, “Swan Song” inevitably manifests in the “big questions” aforementioned during the process of Cameron’s detachment and the chaotic, heart-wrenching realities that come with it. The film, however, has little interest in further pursuing those questions.
Although “Swan Song” is not particularly intended for educationally scientific viewing, it is loaded with an undeniable plethora of philosophical appeals that underpin how it represents the nature of reproductive cloning; and to a more notable degree, what it means to be fully human in a particular structure that God intends. Does human cloning transgress that structure? Does human cloning turn to good or evil apropos of how and why it is used?
While “Swan Song” is a mere melodramatic fodder, its implications stimulate intriguing, meticulous attention and contemplation. Its underdeveloped philosophical remarks are perhaps an inadvertent effort to discredit (or deconstruct) René Descartes’ seminal discourse “cogito, ergo sum” into “I clone, therefore I am.”
“Swan Song” opens in theaters and on Apple TV+ on December 17.