Sundance 2023 Day 1 Recap - The Pod Generation Review
Imagine a world where pregnancy could be outsourced through technology. Such a future is the one we're invited to catch a glimpse of in The Pod Generation, a comedy satire about the lengths we as a society continually go to depend on technology at the expense of nature.
Rachel (Emilia Clarke) is a successful working woman at one of the biggest tech companies of the future. She is a big proponent of tech--she sees an AI therapist, visits "nature pods" for relaxation, and often visits oxygen bars with colleagues. She wants a pregnancy but doesn't want all the negative things that come with pregnancy. That's where the womb center comes in. A lucrative company that takes all of the stress out of pregnancy, by creating the pregnancy in their specially designed pods. It's an expensive process with a never-ending waiting list, but after a promotion, Rachel learns a spot has just opened up. The only hitch will be convincing her traditional husband Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who believes natural pregnancies are more beneficial for children.
The Pod Generation is continually funny and entertaining, all while posing fascinating questions throughout. Given the subject matter, pregnancy and parenthood are naturally a focus of the commentary and as the parent of a toddler, I certainly had a few laughs and could relate. But the film is also very much about the relationship we as humans have with technology as it competes with nature. The scenarios here are absurd and that absurdity was felt and appreciated by its audience. The film makes light of everything it touches on, almost to a fault. It never explores any of what it touches upon in-depth, which makes having a deeper connection to the film difficult. It's content with being satire and only occasionally tries to be too much more.
Writer-director Sophie Barthes' world-building of The Pod Generation is so imaginative and detailed. It's a fun future to visit, even if it is a cautionary tale. She makes a lot of great decisions, but the film's strongest is the casting of Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The two have an easy rapport and totally make the film work by keeping the viewer engaged in their saga. Ejiofor, in particular, is terrific as the reluctant (to this type of experience anyway), father, who has the task of selling some of the silliest pod bonding scenes. He and Emilia are the heart of the film, but I would have loved a bit more to their ending to really hit home the emotional journey they went on.
The Pod Generation might not be for everyone, but I really loved its female perspective on the ups and downs of pregnancy while preparing yourself for the life-changing experience of becoming a parent, and the lessons we want to impart to those we raise once we become one.