Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Godsend

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

GODSEND

2/10

USA 2004 : Nick HAMM : 103 mins

Paul Duncan (Kinnear) and wife Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are devastated when their son Adam (Cameron Bright) is killed in a freak accident the day after his eighth birthday. Brilliant-but-maverick geneticist Prof. Richard Wells (De Niro) then interrupts their grieving with a startling proposition: he claims to have perfected a technique for cloning humans. Initially hostile, the Duncans eventually accept Wells’ offer: and some months later ‘Adam’ is ‘born’ again. All goes well until the child’s eighth birthday – when he starts to experience terrifying visions which lead to alarming, perhaps even homicidal behaviour…

RSC-alumnus Hamm’s 2001 feature The Hole was an effective little Brit-chiller which – as well as introducing audiences to a certain Keira Knightley – proved to be the director’s ticket to Hollywood. Perhaps predictably, this has turned out to be a very mixed blessing indeed: Godsend reportedly suffered a very troubled gestation, requiring extensive reshoots and the filming of a reported half-dozen alternative endings. These problems are all too evident in the finished product. Cloning is seldom far from headlines nowadays – and there’s no reason why the subject shouldn’t inspire an intelligent thriller addressing the moral, ethical and practical aspects. Which is precisely what we don’t get with Godsend, a typically crass Hollywood treatment of a serious, complex issue.

Mark Bomback’s plodding, mumbojumbo-heavy script is itself constructed from some familiar DNA: mainly Pet Sematary and Audrey Rose, plus ‘creepy little kid’ shockers like The Sixth Sense, The Shining and The Omen. It’s a lineage that stretches back via The Bad Seed to The Turn of the Screw and beyond.

And Canadian youngster Bright is very good, auguring well for his similar-sounding role in Jonathan Glazer’s much-anticipated Birth. Hamm creates an unsettling atmosphere, and delivers some decent jolting shocks – but, just like ‘Adam’, the film only functions well up to a certain point. When push comes to shove, however, and explanations need to be forthcoming, the wheels come flying off the wagon with spectacularly messy and confusing results. After the baffling climax, viewers may even wonder if some reels have been mixed up or omitted altogether. Tears of a clone, indeed.

16th June, 2004
(seen 4th June : Vue, Leicester : press show – Cinema Days event)

For other films rated 1/10 and 2/10 check out our Diorama of Dishonour

by Neil Young