by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Good films, no matter the budget, director or cast should make you think when it tries to ask tough questions. You don’t have to agree or disagree with its position, but a good film should plant the seed and leave you ready to debate the subject at hand. Great writers and directors take it one step further. A good filmmaker should be ready to shine a light on a subject that they feel strongly about and be brave enough to tackle their issues no matter how inflammatory or taboo the subject. Now while Closer to God may not be the greatest film you’ve ever seen, it’s certainly brave enough, and interesting enough, to throw a few of those tough questions at you.
Jeremy Child is Victor Reed, a geneticist in a privately funded research centre working to develop human cloning. With a donor giving birth to a cloned baby girl, Elizabeth, right at the start of our story, the doctor announces to the world that he has successfully cloned a human and at almost a month old she seems to be doing well. Unfortunately, the good doctor has been doing his experiments in America, where the mere hint at doing something not mentioned in the bible brings on a fear of the impending apocalypse and hoards of angry bible thumpers outside your place of work screaming that what you’re doing isn’t natural, it’s against God and you’re all going to hell.
Braving the deluge of media attention and public protest, Victor spills just a few of the beans on Elizabeth’s conception and creation. Admitting he was a donor in the process to bring the girl to the world, his refusal to let the public see her and someone in his staff leaking pictures of the baby starts the ball rolling on government proceedings to have the baby examined and the doctor arrested. Fearing for the security of his creation, the doctor moves Elizabeth and his lab to his house where he can keep them safe. Moving his new child in with his wife and two young girls introduces a whole host of issues with Reed’s work, the worst of which is the monstrous secret living in the doctors out building with his maid.
It turns out, that Elizabeth isn’t good old Victor’s first foray into cloning, but she is his most successful one. Hiding on a dark corner of his estate is the doctor’s failed experiment, Ethan. Obscured from vision, we are offered the suggestion that Ethan is suffering from awful deformities caused by the cloning process and in an attempt to atone for his part in the boys pain, Reed has given him a place to stay away from everyone.
Like I said four paragraphs ago, a good film will throw the tough questions at you and get the conversation going. I also said the the film isn’t afraid to ask those questions. But what I didn’t say, was that the film had any real balls or confidence in its convictions. Closer to God plays out, for the most part, like a genetic cloning pros and cons fact sheet. Literally reeling off a list of good and bad things. Yes, it is a medical breakthrough, but it’s against God. Yes, it’ll be an immeasurably helpful tool in finding cures to a whole host of illnesses, but, errr, it’s against God? You kind of get the idea. It plays like all those moronic arguments on Twitter when something positive happens for the gay community or feminism. It’s lazy and gutless at best, eye-rollingly stupid at its worst and just poorly developed the whole way through.
The film is almost rescued in its last twenty minutes. As the doctor’s issues come to a head, it quickly becomes a super-creepy monster-in-the-house film that ups the tension nicely as the film takes hints from others like Pet Sematary, Eraserhead and that one X-Files episode with the killer foetus and actually had me on the edge of my seat and genuinely interested in how it was going to play out.
Closer to God is by no means the worst straight-to-VOD film I’ve seen. Its problems definitely outweigh its good bits and the filmmakers just don’t have the courage to pick what side of the fence they are on and because of it, the film comes off as bland, lifeless and almost PowerPoint like in its delivery. This retelling of Frankenstein comes into its own when it becomes a monster film but unfortunately it’s not enough to rescue this otherwise boring film from its guaranteed slot on movies4men.