Godsend

Starring Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro and Cameron Bright. Directed by Nick Hamm
Running Time: 102 mins.
Rated:
Paul and Jessie Duncan (Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos) are a happily married couple with a wonderful son Adam (Bright). When Adam is killed around his eighth birthday, the Duncans are naturally devastated. Dr Richard Wells (De Niro) approaches them during this time and offers to harvest Adam's DNA and clone a new son for them. In the midst of their grief they reluctantly agree and move near to Wells' clinic in the country so that Wells can monitor Adam II's progress. All goes along nicely until Adam II (Bright) is approaching his eighth birthday. The Duncans begin to find their son's behaviour is unrecognisable, and with good cause.

Given how important the topic of cloning is, and the calibre of actor in this film (especially the young Cameron Bright), the ironically entitled Godsend could have been, and should have been, a much better film.
It starts out intelligently enough with the heartbreak of a child's death, the scientist who exploits the parent's grief, the agony of the decision, the reduction of a child to a 'must-have' commodity, and the manipulation of the cloning lobby. "You will get Adam back' and, "We're talking about using life to create life.'

But I have no idea who is to blame for what happens next in the film. Either the writer Mark Bomback did not trust the dramatic material he was creating, or director Nick Hamm thought it needed spicing up, but Godsend soon descends into a spooky, horror flick - Frankenstein meets Damien. From there on in, it's all shocks and screams, mad scientists and an evil little boy.

There are huge gaps in the narrative as well. For example, when the Duncans move to be near Wells' clinic so as to create Adam II, they're cut off from all former family and friends. While this a convenience in the narrative, are we meant to believe that grandparents, relatives and close friends would never seek them out? Furthermore, the film tells us that Dr Wells needs to harvest Adam I's DNA as soon as possible after his death, to fertilise Jessie's egg and implant it back into her. We know Adam dies straight after his eighth birthday. Assuming a cloned child would also be carried for nine months, how is it that Adam II's birthday is on exactly the same day as Adam I's?

If Godsend had stayed on its course it could have explored some of the interesting ethical questions it started to open up: Can there ever be such a thing as an identical human being? What role does memory play in making us who we are? Do genes and cells carry memories?

There are lots of religious symbols and references throughout this film, but they only serve as silly distractions. The most honest visual clue in Godsend is the E.T. doll in Adam II's bedroom.

In this day and age, Godsend serves no one any good by taking such a serious subject and reducing it to science fantasy.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.


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