Shiny Shelf


LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: Womb

By Jim Smith on 21 October 2010

‘Womb’ is the story of a young woman (Eva Green) who returns from years in Japan to a generic Northern European coastline where she spent some time as a little girl. There she reunites with her childhood sweetheart Tommy (Matt Smith). When he dies in an (unintentionally hilarious traffic) accident, on his way to indulge in some industrial and/or environment sabotage, she opts to have him cloned and to carry, give birth to and raise  said clone as her son.

As Tommy II grows up (eventually becoming Matt Smith) she either develops (or perhaps always had, the picture is very unclear on the matter) intentions towards the boy that are, and I speak euphemistically, rather un-motherly.  There then follows roughly 90 minutes of painstakingly slow cod-Oedipal nonsense which seems to be unfortunately entirely unaware of how utterly ridiculous the mismatch between its tone and content.

It could be argued that ‘Womb’ is done a disservice by being shown in the same festival as ‘Never Let Me Go’, which is by far the better of this week’s two films about clones featuring scenes in an abandoned ship on a deserted beach.  I don’t think that’s true, although seeing the two close together does put the flaws of ‘Womb’ into sharp relief. One of the reasons for the success of ‘Never Let Me Go’ on both the page and the screen is its creators’ understanding that the clones themselves are not the issue. The ‘moral issues’ surrounding cloning are not in and of themselves interesting, affecting or illuminating.  They are, in fact, meaningless and only work analogically, allegorically or metaphorically. They only work as a stand in for something else.  ’Womb’ has no idea what it’s about, unless it’s about ‘clones’. Is it about child abuse? Obsessive love? Isolation? The Oedipus complex? Racism? Institionalised prejudice in small communities?  Selfishness? Longing? It has no idea and neither do I.

The good points. There are some beautiful shots here. Some genuinely lovely camera set ups that show off the windswept and desolate locales to great effect. If this were a dialogue free selection of short nature studies or a collection of postcards, it would have a lot more going for it.

The cast are also, broadly speaking, effective. Smith does similar erratic, odd pausing, angry-kooky-breathy stuff to that which he does (supremely effectively) as Doctor Who. He’s physically extremely impressive in the part(s), as is Green. Both, however, are defeated by the ‘writing bad dialogue’ competition the writer/director is inexplicably having with himself. (To be fair, he’s writing in a language not his own but all this script does is demonstrate that he shouldn’t have tried.)

To return to Green; she looks amazing on camera. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing or doing. She’s visually stunning and not necessarily in a sexual sense. It is unavoidably true that cameras love her. This makes it all the more unfortunate then that what ‘Womb’ really demonstrates about Green is how her remarkable look and transfixing voice are  matched only by her appalling inability to pick projects. (Seriously Green’s filmography is the least prepossessing of anyone you’d call a “movie star”. When the best movie on your CV is a Bond film and the second best a troubled Ridley Scott movie starring Orlando Bloom, you’re in trouble. Apologists for Bertolucci’s ‘The Dreamers’ are politely but firmly informed that while it features some enjoyable nudity it is absolutely bloody awful.)

‘Womb’ can’t decide what its subject is, what its topic is for, and it winds up being a story where the moral is ‘Don’t clone your lover and bring them up as your child’.

Yeah, okay. I’ll remember not to do that, then. Thanks. Lucky escape there.


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One Response

  1. What about Franklyn? That wasn’t bad. I particularly liked it for the fact that at the *precise moment* you wanted to shout at Eva Green’s character to stop being such a pretentious tit, her art tutor turns up and tells her to stop being such a pretentious tit.