Swan Song on Apple TV+

Based on the acting talent in the film and the buzz about it before its release, I was looking forward to Benjamin Cleary’s (first feature film) Swan Song. For me, the strongest aspect of the film was the sets. If you are in any way interested in minimalistic interior design then this will be a feast for your mind and imagination.

While I did appreciate the minimalistic approach Cleary took in regards to dialogue (he also wrote the script) and the visuals, I found the rather intriguing idea behind the film did not resonate with me. It was almost as if I was not even watching humans. Other than Poppy, all the other characters were rather drab and cold. There was really nothing to latch on to. And that is saying something when you are talking about a film centred around death. Emotions should be everywhere, no?

Set in the near future, a man is knocked for a loop when he receives a terminal illness diagnosis. But it may not truly be the end for him. Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali – Green Book, Hidden Figures) has a decision to make. He is offered by Dr. Jo Scott (Glenn Close – Dangerous Liaisons, The Wife) an experimental solution that would allow his death to happen without his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris – Moonlight, 28 Days Later) and son having to suffer.

Many a film has attempted to sagely examine the issue of death. It is one that preoccupies all humans and is universal as well all will die at one point or another. There are the constant struggles of trying almost anything to extend life so we can remain with the people we love. Then there is the other side of the coin, in those people who love us and are left behind in their grief. Here we look at love, sacrifice and loss.

The question is asked – how far would you go to have your loved ones not feel the pain of your death? It is a constant push and pull for Cameron. In the beginning, he believes the answer is an obvious and simple one. As time goes on and he gets closer to death and finds out more of what his decision entails, Cameron begins to have doubts. It is here, in this struggle, that the value and truth of life and love come to him.

Slow and not registering more than a blip in regards to the emotions that should be happening in a story like this one, I could not get involved in Swan Song. I felt the time pass, kept looking at the clock and checking how much time was left. Sigh…not optimal in regards to film watching. The slow pace was especially annoying when I was sitting through scenes that did not need to be there. Trim the fat, Cleary! Be minimalist in regards to your editing.

Then there was the frustration I felt when the film did not tackle or even attempt to, any of the big life questions it raises. Just leaves everything unresolved or open-ended. Yes, it will provoke thought and debate about the questions, but no answers…or even possibilities.

A combo of sci fi and drama takes place here. A film that challenges the viewer to answer the “what would you do?” question.

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