Sundance Review: The Pod Generation Features an Interesting Concept That’s Not Fully Gestated

A big swing and a miss comes courtesy of writer/director Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls, 2015’s Madame Bovary) in The Pod Generation, concerning a New York couple, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor), living in the not-so-distant future where convenience is everything, even when it comes to childbirth. Rachel is the primary breadwinner as an executive at a tech company, while Alvy is a botanist, who believes that all things should be done and grown naturally, including children. These days, however, anyone of means has children via the Womb Center, which offers couples a portable womb to gestate their child within, making it possible for both men and women to handle the burden of pregnancy.

Rachel doesn’t haven’t to disrupt her career with this process, though she does still hide a consultation she has with the Center from her husband until she better understands the process. Not surprisingly, he’s not happy about any of it when she finally tells him, but over time, he becomes slightly obsessed with caring for the pod, especially carrying it and touching it to reveal its contents via a window (womb envy?).

Some of the building blocks of The Pod Generation are interesting, but the film left me with more questions than answers about the time period and how things are done within it. For example, Rachel’s AI therapist seems compromised and tends to advise her to stick to the status quo, gearing her toward convenience versus what her heart tells her. Portions of the film are also weirdly comical as it attempts to provide commentary on the current state of detached parenthood. This time period’s version of Alexa is constantly measuring not just your vitals but also your mood (your “Bliss Index”), which seems easy to fake but also wildly intrusive. Computers in this society print your food, make your drinks, and even provide you with “nature pods,” so you don’t have to drive to the country to relax.

Within this backdrop, Clarke tends to play her role as decidedly underwhelmed by it all, while Ejiofor always seems overwhelmed by everything, like he’s just experiencing things for the first time. Some of The Pod Generation tickled me, but most of it didn’t quite resonate. The lead actorss certainly sold me on the closeness of their relationship, but it’s their relationship to the world they live in (and thus, present-day existence) I found tough to buy into.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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