Swan Song (2021) review – a meditative science-fiction about life and death

December 18, 2021 (Last updated: February 1, 2023)
Abirbhab Maitra 0
Apple TV+, Film Reviews, Streaming Service


Two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali teamed up with Benjamin Cleary in a futuristic sci-fi dealing with the insecurity of human beings.

This review of the Apple TV+ film Swan Song (2021) does not contain spoilers. 

Benjamin Cleary’s debut feature Swan Song is set in a futuristic setting, where technology surrounds humans everywhere. In the trains, in the streets or at homes, everywhere the technology is a key aspect of human living. They have with them AI-generated contact lenses and ear-pods all the time, making them their best friends in this dystopian society. It is a society, where people are lesser and the work is mostly done by the AIs. In a scene, one character sums this by saying they have three humans in their team and AIs having the work power equivalent of 50 humans. But it is not a movie showing the domination of the technologies as a cautionary tale. Rather Cleary’s vision takes us on a meditative journey of how science and technology can co-exist in a symbiotic relationship with natural beings.

It revolves around Cameron Turner, a middle-aged man with deteriorating health who tries his best to enroll himself into a program of human cloning to ensure a better future for his family. In this process, the clone will take Cameron’s role in society and no one will ever know about it. It is just like a clean swap. But Cameron is in the dilemma about the feeling of being left behind in this crucial moment of his life and supporting his wife and children. Deep-rooted this insecurity, Cameron struggles with accepting being replaced by someone else. But he does not want to leave his wife in a broken state as she has been through after her twin brother’s death. This psychoanalysis of human insecurity leading to the existential crisis is the key takeaway from Swan Song.

Mahershala Ali is flawless in his portrayal of Cameron. He appears in most of the scenes of the film and takes the film to the finish line with his strong performance. With the perfect intensity, he gives his all to the character. Perfectly synced in every aspect, he may be on the way for his third Oscar nomination. Other supporting actors, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close and Adam Beach pulls their limited screen time with preciseness complementing and pushing Ali’s character to get along.

Masanobu Takayanagi’s cinematography and Annie Beauchamp’s production design creates the perfect mood. With wide-angle frames and simple empty set pieces often complements the mental state of Cameron. The alienation and the feeling of being left behind are beautifully portrayed by these two men’s poetic compositions throughout the film.

Who knows, perhaps this is poetry about life and the other life. Cleary ends Swan Song in an ambiguous note on this question. He doesn’t give any answer for that but just creates the mood to find out by ourselves.

What do you think of Apple TV+ film Swan Song (2021)? Comment below.

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