Review: Clock (2023)

Clock is a 2023 science fiction horror film starring Dianna Agron released on Hulu (domestically) and Disney Plus (internationally). The basic story is Ella (Agron) is a 37 year old, career driven woman who has no interest in having children to the chagrin and detriment (in their minds) of everyone around her from her husband to her friends to her father. While adamant from the beginning that she is uninterested in children of her own, the social pressure put on by the world and her loved ones eventually wears her down, and she undergoes questionable, experimental practices to “fix” her broken biological clock. These unapproved procedures begin to have severe side effects including visual and auditory hallucinations, mood swings, psychosis, and blackout periods, but they also seem to be working as Ella begins to have a, seemingly, real desire to have children. The side effects become more and more severe resulting in Ella eventually ending her treatment too late to not essentially destroy her life. The film ends on an odd not that is not exactly hopeful nor tragic nor bittersweet but aims to, perhaps, have a deeper message of life and the story of humanity and a person.

This is one of those rare movies where I feel utterly unconfident and ill prepared to discuss or analyze. Mostly because I have no real connection to most of the themes and narrative being explored. The main theme of Clock is an exploration of the supposed biological imperative to have children and continue progeny and the societal pressure to do so, but more specifically how it impacts women. I am not a woman, and even being Latinx, as a man there is not quite the full press from family and friends and society to have children that women face. Hence, why I fully understood Ella’s struggle and character arc and the lengths that she goes to to correct what she has been told is a problem. It also fully explains why even against the possibility of losing her sanity, Ella continues with her treatment up until the very last second. It is interesting to see Agron’s performance throughout the film. She encompasses the conflict of wanting to live her dreams while still wanting the approval and relationships with her husband and father and friends. While I cannot fully empathize with her character’s specific struggle, I can, at the very least, understand the motivation of not wanting to fail your loved ones.

Honestly, one of the most tragic, but expected, reveals in recent films.

Even so, I still had issue with the way the film presented the situation as no one, not a single person, was on Ella’s side. It was odd and astonishing that it was written in such a way. Obviously, this was a narrative choice to fully isolate Ella and force her down the path she does. Still, it was harrowing and uncomfortable to constantly be alone in such a specific and profound and impactful decision. Again, an obvious narrative choice. This is then further exacerbated by the knowledge that Ella (like Agron) is Jewish and that her family, through her paternal grandmother, can directly tie back to the Holocaust. This added a whole another depth to Ella’s choices and the constant pressure put on by her father for children. Because now it is not solely a personal choice Ella is making but one that impacts an entire people who have been denied their humanity and population. Her decisions around conception and children now have even more weight and depth and consideration than before. I cannot imagine what impact that kind of history and pressure would have on a person’s psyche. There is an interesting conversation between Ella and her doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Simmons, in which Ella goes more in detail about how she perceives the horrors of the Holocaust and why it is given such prominence in modern society even against other horror and atrocities. If for no other reason or interest, that conversation is worth the entry of watching this film.

The turn in the film is violent and very earned along with its tragic nature. Ella ends up losing her husband, though that is more because of his actions than hers, and her father, that one is very much a result of her building trauma and psychosis. As well, the final conversation Ella has with her father in which he describes seeing the family all the way back to the first species leaving the oceans during his near death experience has resonance with the eventual conclusion of the film as Ella sees something similar though it does not seem to provide the same clarity and comfort it did for him. Of course, that ending and its potential meaning, if any, is up to interpretation. Yet, the film, in its entirety, definitely appears to want to examine and have a message and discuss themes and issues at length to some degree. How effective it does so is up for debate.

I am not sure what discussion or discourse or future this movie will have in particular with the whole current streaming atmosphere even with established talents in leading and supporting roles in the film. This is exactly the kind of movie that just a few years ago would have had a decent theatrical release and gotten more support once it hit the home and streaming markets. Now, it will probably be forgotten about in a few weeks if even that long. Just another victim of the current market.

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