Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romjin-Stamos) are devastated when their 8-year old son Adam (Cameron Bright) is killed in a freak accident on his birthday. When a distant acquaintance, Dr Richard Wells (Robert De Niro) approaches them with a cloning proposition, they eventually agree, despite knowing the risks and the legal/moral realities. Wells is anxious to prove his groundbreaking work in genetic engineering but what the traumatised parents can't know is what will happen when their replica son turns eight.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Send in the clones is the appropriate theme song for this underwhelming attempt at psychological thrills; it ends up like any mass produced genre piece in which the only thing that is well developed is the film negative. Yes, it looks great. The script begins by posing the premise: what if your beloved son was killed and I could clone him for you so you had him back. The legal, moral and practical issues are indeed sensational material, a great and timely idea to explore.
From this point, both the screenplay and the direction start to fray. The screenplay adds a layer of totally B grade supernatural, and the direction lacks any connection with the realities of the situation. Rapidly skimming through the plot points, Nick Hamm forgets to even hint at how or where Dr Wells obtains dead Adam's cells for the cloning. Later in the film we realise there is a reason for this evasion, and it has to do with a pathetic plot twist.
Once Paul and Jessie agree to the highly secret and illegal plan, they have to start a new life on the Dr's extensive lakeside estate, severing all ties with family, friends and work. Snap your cinematic fingers and hey presto.
More speed as we get past the pregnancy and birth, and wheee, now it's the replica Adam's 8th birthday again. It's fine that he looks 8, but his parents must have aged another eight years and nine months. Doesn't show. Indeed, nothing has changed in their lives in that time.
There's also a nanny who confesses attempted murder to Paul when he comes knocking on her door, even though she's never laid eyes on him before, and in her confession she reveals information about a dead woman killed by her son, which only the dead woman could have known. Now I know there are strange bumps in the night in this film, and some para-normal activity is thrown around as part of mystification of the audience, but this nice nanny is not meant to be a seer.
The script is so unrestrained that it just stumbles over every trap that it sets itself. Had common sense prevailed, this premise could have been teased out with vigour, drama and tons of emotional, moral cross roads to make us think and feel and struggle with the complex issues involved. It has dumbed itself down, star-cast itself up, and comes out like a sausage - without the sizzle.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its stimulating premise and a strong cast, Godsend offers the kind of elements that could work wonderfully - or not. The central premise of playing God raises powerful legal and moral issues, while the human drama evolving from the loss of a child offers turbulence at the most personal level.
The genre is drama, thriller and horror, but director Nick Hamm only succeeds in part when it comes to the horror elements. That's when he appears to be in his element and instills a chilling mood, and doing so, excels at making us feel uneasy. But the script and storytelling is unconvincing and manipulative: we are told things, rather than allowed to feel what the characters are feeling. At times, events seem ridiculous, and badly formulaic. And much is done for effect only. Rather than the story evolving naturally, I found myself becoming annoyed at the many jumps in time, with the inclusion of token, often simplistic scenes. There's the scene showing the medical procedure; then we see the new house and an obviously pregnant Jessie sitting on the floor, surrounded by Adam's photos. We then cut to the delivery room, and suddenly it is eight years later. Of course Adam looks the same, but he has conveniently been given a different, severe haircut, for a vaguely demonic appearance.
Grief is hard to watch, and in the early scenes when husband and wife experience the despair that losing a child brings, it is easy to connect on an emotional level. Greg Kinnear brings great depth to his devoted family man, traumatised by events, and becoming increasingly resentful of the importance Robert De Niro's brilliant doctor/scientist Dr Richard Wells plays in his family's life. Kinnear is everyman, and his sincerity rings true: it is through his eyes and heart that our emotions are considered. De Niro has the presence to carry off the role, and we are left with an effective image of his juggling the chiming, eastern meditation balls in the palm of his hand, as if juggling fate. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos shows that she can be more than just a pretty face as Jessie, while nine-year-old Cameron Bright (The Butterfly Effect) is haunting as Adam. Bright successfully conveys plenty through his almond-shaped eyes and expressive face, alternating easily between likeable and evil.
Godsend is a bit of hit and miss. More miss, than hit. When it's good, it's creepy; when it's not, we hope the film will end quickly.
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CAST: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, Cameron Bright and Robert De Niro
PRODUCER: Cathy Schulman, Sean O'Keefe, Marc Butan
DIRECTOR: Nick Hamm
SCRIPT: Mark Bomback
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kramer Morgenthau
EDITOR: Steve Mirkovich ACA, Niven Howie
MUSIC: Brian Tyler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Doug Kraner
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 8, 2004
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.