“The Pod Generation” is one of those sci-fi films set in the future that teases just enough of our own world to accentuate the differences. Somewhere in the late 21st century, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wake up every day in a sprawling high-rise apartment where window shades rise in the morning light, a laser makes your toast, and Siri doesn’t just help you—she makes a conversation. want Folio, the company Rachel works for, makes and markets the AI assistant (the one they’re about to introduce looks like a mounted eyeball), and everyone there is much more screen-centric than we are. But you can see where we’re heading.
These are presented as “progress” which is a sly parody of progress. But then Rachel is called into the office of a senior executive, who excitedly informs her that she is getting a promotion. All good, right? After inquiring about the fact that the executive, Rachel’s husband is a self-employed botanist, asks her if she plans to start a family. The implication is that he should not be; It will interfere with his work. This gives us an ominous pause, since in our own society there is more and more movement to treat such thinking as discriminatory. But according to “The Pod Generation,” all the progress our current office policies have made is where the future is headed: a place where working women (says one character) “reluctantly have children, because it’s not convenient for them.”
The executive then tells Rachel that the company can offer her a coveted spot at the Womb Center, a place that puts a whole new spin on pregnancy. Technology seems to have reached a point where it has freed women from the need to carry their babies inside them. In the womb center, fertilization happens externally…and so does pregnancy! Instead of living in the mother’s womb, the fetus grows into a pod that looks like a shiny white plastic egg about a foot and a half long. There’s a cap on top with small holes that make it look like some funky all-in-one music-speaker system. In the pod, the fetus is fed and can experience sounds, smells and screens (yes, screens) that will help it grow.
Rachel had already put herself on a waiting list to get into the womb center. The Pegasus Corporation, of which Folio is a division, has privileges for the elite and drives that process forward. For a while, though, Rachel and Alvy can’t agree on how to proceed. Alvy, a plant whisperer who’s also a 20th-century nostalgist, isn’t on board at all with replacing the natural world with a synthetic version of himself. She is against having a baby at the pregnancy center, and can’t believe that Rachel would have signed up for it without consulting her. The argument is finally resolved — she loves him and wants to support him; They proceed with a pod of babies. But what “The Pod Generation” taps into a lot is how the combined forces of technology and corporate power now seem almost designed to divide people from each other.
Rachel and Alvy get pregnant (they watch the sperm enter the egg on a large phosphorescent video screen that makes it look like a music video), and are soon presented with the pod: the pregnancy itself becomes a consumer product. Written and directed by Sophie Barthes (“Madame Bovary”), “The Pod Generation” has a surface tone that is lightened and funky by its futuristic-Martha-Stewart-domestic-gizmo pastel production design. There is no doubt that the movie is a satire, but it never is only A satire has a diabolical undercurrent to it. It’s like Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” crossed with “Rosemary’s Baby”.
The literal-minded may find “The Pod Generation” to be, simply, an absurd comedy of dehumanization, in which a woman having a baby outside her body is treated as the ultimate future-shock “advance.” But the movie actually knows and targets more than that. The possibilities of technology are driving the fate of Rachel and Alvy’s baby; So is the company he works for. These forces took control Of the child and, in a real sense, it was taken away from him. Sophie Barthes Let’s be clear about what satire is. He has created an entertaining but darkly resonant movie that explores how the medical establishment has increasingly controlled the process of childbirth and how society as a whole is now trying to instill isolation in us.
At first, the scene with Rachel and Alvy toting around their plastic pods looks like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. But the way Barthes stages the movie, with a poignant relationship, becomes more real the more we tune into the situation. The two actors play it with lived-in nervous emotion, as Clarke, with her crooked smile, makes the ambitious Rachel a woman at odds with herself, and Ejiofor, bearded and saturnine, turns Alvy into a restless humanitarian. There are a couple of great scenes with Rachel’s AI therapist – a giant flowery eyeball – who dismisses dreams as relics of a dead age, and there’s a droll running motif of Alvy toting pods around in a carrier bag, a pinch of Babybjorn and other products that daddies cuddly bohemian into. Seems to have been designed to turn.
“Pod Generation” goes into the shadows longer than this. Because its tone is slightly different. The film strikes a series of ominous notes, particularly Rosalie Craig’s performance as the womb center’s liaison who lets Rachel know in a dozen ways that her baby is gone. his, the movie should, perhaps, turn into a thriller. Yet it’s full of irresistible touches, like Jean-Marc Barre, the bald cultish Pegasus founder who speaks in self-realistic fascist epigrams. Barthes has created a cautionary tale that is not only more relevant than “Don’t Worry Darling,” but speaks to audiences with a casual courage that surpasses what David Cronenberg attempted in “Future Crime.” His movie was a swank allegorical compilation about the flesh of rebellion. The “Pod Generation” is very much about our flesh, and the powers that be are only too happy to take it away from us.