Review: CLOSER TO GOD

CLOSER-TO-GOD-Hi-Res-725x1024In 1818, Mary Shelley introduced the world to FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS, her novel revolving around Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a man who creates an eight foot tall monster made of dead body parts, utilizing a special technique to bring it to life. He is disgusted by his creation, he abandons the monster. This leads to a story of ethics and loneliness told in epistolary form, where Dr. Frankenstein is attempting to warn an equally ambitious man of the consequences of playing God.

Writer/director Billy Senese brings us CLOSER TO GOD, another version of Shelley’s now classic story in the form of a loose observation on cloning. This version focuses on another Victor, a genetic scientist who creates Elizabeth, the first successful infant clone. His experiment is brought to the mainstream with polarizing reactions in the media and society, leading to dangerous consequences not just for Elizabeth, but for the doctor himself. There are moments of debate, both for and against what cloning is capable of that make up the most interesting aspects of the movie. Cloning pushes the limits of what human science can accomplish, but who are we to play God? At the same time, scientific creations like this can help provide more tools in finding cures to human ailments, like cancer. The movie pushes a little more, if not enough, into the ethics discussion as it decides to delve in the slasher territory in its last 30 minutes.

There are black and white flashbacks introducing us to a past secret experiment gone wrong, hidden even to the doctor’s family. That secret is not shown for much of the film, but often discussed, possibly to help create tension and curiosity. However, it distracts from the film’s stronger aspects. During the third act, the body count begins and in comes in the killer kid genre with PHENOMENA like physical attributes.

CLOSER TO GOD struggles with what kind of film it wants to be, yet still a bit of heart to it. Senese seems to hold a liking to Shelley’s original story, paying much homage including the angry mob in the form of protestors. It can be on the nose at times, but still holds onto interesting themes that makes the film worth watching.

Another genre offering that came to mind was BBC’S ORPHAN BLACK, a TV show starring Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, a young woman with a criminal background who learns in the pilot that she is one of many clones as part of a larger scheme. The show introduces viewers to the different clones, each sporting their own looks and personalities along with ethics questions like nature vs nature. For example, if the clones have identical DNA then why is one a lesbian versus another being the conservative soccer mom living the defining nature of a nuclear family? The show has plenty of fun with these questions, often putting these characters in dangerous situations, making it quite entertaining to watch how they handle it.

CLOSER TO GOD, however, has an identity crisis, which is ironic given the prominent themes. The doctor is accused at one point accused of abusive behavior towards his subject, performing long durations of testing on a newborn baby and holding a lack of attachment that many believe a baby so needs. Yet there are moments where he seems to hold a paternal interest towards the baby, or maybe I was just confusing his need to protect science as fatherly love. Maybe that confusion is all a part of Senese’s purpose because once the credits started rolling, I found myself asking the question: Who is the real monster?

Leave A Comment