The Pod Generation Review – Funny, Romantic, Futuristic Satire

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The Pod Generation, screening at Sundance Film Festival, presents an intriguing and comical look at the options couples hoping for pregnancy will confront in the ultra-modernized world as AI takes over nearly all aspects of life.

The film begins in a dream state as Rachel, played by Emilia Clarke, sees herself pregnant, gently caressing her belly, glowing with anticipation of the future. Suddenly the alarm burst through the haze destroying the moment and snaps her awake. She pulls back the covers and we realize she is not pregnant, and understand the desire is now so strong that it overwhelms her even in her dreams.

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She walks to the kitchen, where her AI home companion, Elena, prepares her breakfast, coffee, measure her “bliss index,” and even provides her a medical update on her system.

Welcome to 21st century Manhattan. We meet her husband, Alvy, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a college professor, whose career as a botanist, is being replaced by hologram images of plant life. Nature has lost its importance in this modern world. On days when Alvy works from home, he finds his peace planting actual bulbs into real dirt. The greenhouse they have in their apartment is something Rachel accepts because she loves him.

Rachel, a rising tech company executive is given a promotion and one of the perks is assistance with the company’s Womb Center, an AI style surrogacy program that allows couples to enjoy the benefits of pregnancy without the physical demands it places on the body.

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By chance, a spot opens in the introduction session, which ends with the option of signing a contract and securing the surrogacy pod with a deposit. With the thought of a baby invading even her sleep, she decides to secure the pod, sign the contract and leave the deposit.

When she arrives home, Alvy asks about the missing money, simply out of concern over the possibility of fraud as they hadn’t discussed any large purchases. She explains they had been on the waiting list for the Womb Center for more than a year, and a spot opened, and by the end of the program she was sold so she made a deposit. Which sets up the third act.

Suddenly, the pair are going to have a baby. As they make the arrangements, we meet Linda, the headmistress of the Womb Center, played by Rosalie Craig, who explains with precision the entire process now can be controlled, even to the choice of gender.

Rachel and Alvy, while not throwbacks to a gentler generation are not as modernized as the world they inhabit. His love for nature has kept him grounded in a reality, that many miss. So, when they are asked to choose, they decide to let nature have its way. Which nearly short-circuits Linda’s system.

The process of course is AI enhanced as Linda gives the play by play of fertilization, cheering on the champion swimmers, and calling it like a horse race as finally the winner crosses the finish line!

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Soon, the couple are given bonding time with the baby/womb pod which sits on an AI connected platform that glows as the baby continues to grow. On schedule an alarm will sound and as the growing baby must be fed, the parents are provided nutrient pods which they snap into place and the womb pod sits on it and the alarm disengages.

Once Alvy, who was disappointed that Rachel chose the AI method of pregnancy, was left alone with the pod and had to meet the needs when the alarm sounded, he began to connect, and suddenly he becomes enamored with the womb/pod even taking it to the office with him. We see him becoming emotional, sensitive, protective while she unsure of why she is not feeling more connected.

The Pod Generation is more than a social satire on the future of parenting and the debate on technology, as both sets of parents who are old enough to remember the days when womb/pods were not an option. It presents, through each character, the need for balance, between modernization and advanced technology and the blissful tranquility of real, toes in the sand, off the grid, nature.

Director Sophie Barthes’ third feature explores the tantalizing relationship between technology, nature, and society. She brings a funny, philosophical sensibility to her questioning of society’s giddy pursuit of convenience, tech’s intrusion in our lives, womb envy, and the commodification of everything.

Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor embody the emotional journey of an expecting couple adding comical sensitivity and emotive transference as the film progresses.

With laugh out loud moments, The Pod Generation is a must see and can be streamed at Sundance Film Festival. See it.

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Country: Belgium/France/United Kingdom.

Language: English.

Run Time: 109 Min.

Director: Sophie Barthes.

Screenwriter: Sophie Barthes.

Producer: Geneviève Lemal, Yann Zenou, Nadia Kamlichi, Martin Metz.

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosalie Craig, Vinette Robinson, Jean-Marc Barr.

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