Reel Reviews | The Pod Generation (Sundance ’23)

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

In the near future, a successful New York couple takes the next natural leap in their family journey but soon they wonder what is natural and what is artificial in The Pod Generation.

One morning, Rachel Novy is called into her supervisor’s office in New York to be given the great news that she is going to receive a promotion at the company. As a benefit of the company, she has been bumped up in line at Pegazus, the artificial womb company so she can have her baby without missing any work. Despite the fact that she and her husband, Alvy, a botanist who believes the world is departing from its roots in nature, have not discussed having children, much less the process of having a baby in an artificial womb. Rachel goes through her appointment at Pegazus and then tells her husband. Of course, Alvy is not happy but decides to support his wife in this endeavor. Avoiding the complications of pregnancy seems like the best of all situations at first but soon the loving couple wonders whether an artificial birthing womb is a right idea.

Written and directed by Sophie Barthes, The Pod Generation stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Emilia Clarke. It is delightful at times and frustrating at others, social commentary on what is real and what is artificial.

Generation is Sophie Barthes’ third feature film and serves as a good rebound from the lackluster attempt at Madame Bovary she attempted in 2014. Not to say that this film is high cinema, but it is certainly more interesting. For most of the film, Barthes captures the feel of a strange Black Mirror episode. The concept of a couple giving birth to a baby from an artificial womb seems more than a little ridiculous, bordering on outrageous. Yet there probably is some research lab that is trying to make it a reality. Barthes treats the story in a comical and satirical fashion that makes it palatable but interestingly enough, the film has an unnatural feel embedded in its DNA.

The performances of Ejiofor and Clarke are wonderful, creating characters that are stilted and disconnected from their realities. Their chemistry as a couple is mystifying throughout most of the movie but understandable as each one embodied the polar opposites of nature vs. nurture or real vs. artificial. At every turn, Ejiofor’s natural character bends to the cold and uncaring will of science and Clarke. As the film develops though it is clear that a more symbiotic relationship is necessary.

The Pod Generation is an interesting and at times frustrating look into a world that probably should not exist. However, thanks to this film, we may be more prepared for when it arrives.

Grade: C