The Pod Generation
by George Wolf
There are some scary implications to be found, but The Pod Generation is no horror show. In this near future world, couples – and women, specifically – willingly line up for the chance to get pregnant outside the womb.
Writer/director Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls, Madame Bovary) cooks up a smart, darkly funny and satirical look at the many faces of “progress” that still gets stuck on repeat in the third act.
Rachel (Emilia Clarke) has a well-paid gig monitoring influencers (that’s a full-time job!) at a tech firm. Her husband Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a botanist and teacher. And from cognitive assistants to breathing bars and nature “sessions,” Rachel’s fine with all the comforts provided by technology, while Alvy is much more comfortable keeping things actually natural.
So there’s a conflict when Rachel gets an unexpected message from tech giant Pegazus. After years on the waitlist – there’s an opening at The Womb Center! Do Rachel and Alvy want to be next to grow their baby in a pod?
Alvy is plenty wary, but Linda, the Womb Center director (Rosalie Craig, terrific) is mighty persuasive. In a speech that feels like the cynical sister to America Ferrera’s truth bomb from Barbie, she wins the couple over with the reasons why women are no longer “victims of biology.”
We’ve seen films about the hidden dangers of technology for years now, but Barthes brings a slyly vital approach to the discussion, and gets a big assist from production designer Clement Price-Thomas. Everything in this world is sleek, futuristic and creepily intrusive, but just close enough to our own surroundings that we have no problem accepting it as possible (even probable).
Pair that with the excellent work from Clarke and Ejiofor, and Barthes has fertile ground to dig in. She peppers the outside with some dry, funny barbs about relationships and work life, while the meat in the middle takes on gaslighting and the slippery slope of trading control for convenience.
And yet, as big and worthy as these ideas are, you expect the pregnancy arc to end with a little more bite. There’s more than enough to keep us engaged while a desperate couple is weighing their options, but once it’s decision time, The Pod Generation doesn’t offer much beyond what we’ve known since we were amazed by the click wheel.