Director: Alexis Jacknow | Script: Alexis Jacknow | Cast: Dianna Agron (Ella), Saul Rubinek (Joseph), Melora Hardin (Dr. Simmons), Jay Ali (Aidan), Grace Porter (Shauna), ea | Time to play: 92 minutes | Year: 2023
Even as a man, I was asked from the age of sixteen if I wanted children later, and when I said no, the standard response was ‘Wait a minute.’ Now I am almost fifty years old and the only thing that has changed is that people no longer ask. For women, that pressure is even greater; as if there weren’t enough people on the planet already. Clock is a psychological horror movie on exactly this topic. However, this lead eventually results in a lot of vague hoopla without a satisfying conclusion.
She doesn’t want children, and no one around her understands that. Her friends think it’s weird, her partner agrees but she is disappointed and her father is frankly angry with her decision. However, it is not a decision: no molecule in her body shows the need to get pregnant. So there must be something wrong with her, and when he hears of a clinic that can wake up the biological clock, he seeks help there. The desire to have children arises, but not without side effects.
Clock opens with a baby shower, where Ella’s selflessness emerges. One of the women asks in surprise what She fills her day with for God’s sake. The answer is a montage of Ella’s full life. Work, love and hobbies: she enjoys being able to do everything she wants without any shortcomings. Also, humans aren’t really on the brink of extinction because reproduction is no longer possible, and there are countless good reasons not to bring another child into the world.
In the end, it is her father who internally convinces Ella to want her to fulfill the children’s wish. She’s not the strongest base to build her scenario on, but her father is very convincing and makes the case that she has this obligation to her persecuted Jewish ancestors, who survived a concentration camp and ultimately gave birth to She. It all adds to the pressure, making Ella feel like she has no choice.
An experimental clinic is always an appropriate setting for thrillers and terror, also in Clock. There are hardly any patients and Ella is not given a clear explanation of exactly what is going to happen to her. There she first sees the dark form, which she returns to regularly thereafter. A terrifying figure that will provide at least one successful scare moment.
But most of the horror comes after leaving the clinic and it’s not (only) in that appearance. She begins to live in a different reality. The colors become flatter, she suffers from delusions and everything seems to be focused on having children. Even metaphorically: she takes the eggs out of the fridge and puts them back in the freezer; that’s how she freezes her eggs, so to speak. She also sees spiders everywhere. Because of a comment from her father, who says that Jews used to be seen as worthless insects.
She spins so fast that it’s not believable that anyone intervenes. The rapid downward spiral away from reality and common sense is unpleasant to watch. At the same time, due to the high pace, this development is going so fast that it is emotionally impossible to keep up. As a result, the bond and interest in her fate are lost. And with that, the power of the point becomes Clock undermined
Too bad, because there’s nothing wrong with the message that people should stop pushing someone to have kids and make them feel like there’s something wrong with them when they don’t want to be a parent. Clock it ends rather abruptly with an action occurring before you understand why it is being done, closing with the vaguest scene showing something that has been mentioned before. There must be a thought behind it.
Clock is an interesting directorial and screenwriting debut for Alexis Jacknow, who has been most active as an actress so far. This isn’t all yet, but it seems to promise more in the future. At least, as long as no one nags her too much that she has to trade her career for motherhood.
Clock can be seen in Disney+.