Sundance Review: ‘The Pod Generation’

Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor Lead Sophie Barthes’ Frustrating, Futuristic Third Feature

Director Sophie Barthes’ The Pod Generation is a 101-minute-long movie version of a Black Mirror episode. Starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who would most likely show up in the dystopian anthology series, star as a married couple in the near future who live in a technology-obsessed New York. Rachel (Clarke), the breadwinner, works for a tech conglomerate that is involved in all aspects of life, including birth. 

Her husband, Alvy (Ejiofor) is a botanist and holographic plant designer. His profession is looked down upon by their friends and family, getting all they need from “nature pods” and breathing treatments. The two have a desire to have a child, though Rachel is more interested in an artificial method supported by her tech job than getting pregnant herself. With an insincere push from HR and friends around her, she accepts a space at “the womb center”.

The thing about a good sci-fi movie is that some aspect of the character needs to be grounded in our reality. While Ejiofor starts there and is someone you can relate to, he quickly falls for this parental fantasy provided by this Amazon-like company (the CEO literally looks like Jeff Bezos.) Both characters are frustratingly naive and fail at any point to have a moment of reckoning with how they treat one another or the pull Rachel’s job has on their lives. Emilia Clarke’s smile is so ingenuine that it reflects the reality of their world beautifully. 

The majority of the film is watching this beautiful couple fight and placate over a large white sphere where their child is growing. It’s only when the birth center tells them that they have to return their incubating child for testing, that they realize that something may be wrong with this company. Not when a giant AI therapist (who is a literal eye watching them) tries to break up their marriage, not when Rachel’s work makes her place the pod in a closet, not when the company all but insults the couple for choosing Alvy as the father, they only realize the truth when they are told ‘no.’

Maybe Barthes knows something about the future most don’t. Maybe we are stepping closer and closer to this reality with each new iPhone and SpaceX flight. But if this is the future we are speeding toward, I hope most of us won’t be as ignorant and insufferable as these characters.

'The Pod Generation'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
sundance-review-the-pod-generationSophie Barthes tries to imagine what a future looks like for our children but can't ground it in reality.