Benjamin Cleary’s Swan Song explores human conflict in a futuristic age. The technology had changed, became more advanced, but the intrinsic psychology of a human being remained the same. The point had come where both the elements stood at crosswords. Our lives are slowly getting surrounded by machines and devices. Many natural things are getting replaced by modern contrivances to do things in a faster and convenient manner. In the search for a utopian life, we are slowly reaching to a point where not only our life would be supplemented by machinery and technology but completely replaced by it too. What do we do when gadgets, apps, and tools meant to make our life easier and supplement it in different ways are ready to take our place and replace our physical presence entirely in this real world?
Benjamin Cleary puts us in that state of unrest which is beguiling in the beginning but harrows you once you start understanding the dilemma. Mahershala Ali playing Cameron and Jack, portrays that dilemma with an exuding calmness and sometimes through cessation of activity rather than the other way round.
‘Swan Song’ Plot Summary
Cameron is living happily with his wife, Poppy, and his son, Cory. But his perfect life is mangled to pieces when he realizes that he is suffering from a terminal disease. He gets seizures and sometimes completely blacks out. His wife is pregnant, and he is scared to leave his family alone to fend for themselves.
He consults Dr. Jo Scott, who is running a clinic where she creates clones for human beings. The clone is not only able to learn and adapt like a normal human brain but also has the emotional quotient to understand the context and impact of his decisions. Once created, it is so much like the real person that you need to have some physical trait that is non-identical. Dr. Jo gives Cameron a mole on his hand.
During the transition period, the real person and the clone live in the same facility. The clone goes through a test where the real person asks him questions about his own life. Once the doctors and the person are satisfied, then the clone takes the place of his counterpart in the real world.
Dr. Jo makes Cameron sign a contract. The terms and conditions lay down some ground rules. Once the clone has taken his place in the real world, there is a two-week period where he is kept under observation. If everything goes right, then the clone’s memory of living and being created in the facility is removed.
But no matter how easy and futuristic it might sound, letting a person take your place in the real world, without anybody knowing that it is not actually you, has its own psychological implications.
‘Swan Song’ Ending Explained – A Conflict That Runs Deep
What Benjamin Cleary was successfully able to do was create an intricate web of human emotions where you realize that your confutation is slowly becoming self-contradictory. The world does not see the difference, but you know that it is not you. The clone might have your EQ and IQ, but there is something beyond that too which only you have access to. Cameron sees Jack with his wife and his kid. He feels relieved that they wouldn’t be abandoned after he is gone but at the same time, feeling a pinch of seeing another person with your wife, becomes inevitable.
I have always believed that possessiveness is an innate characteristic of every human. Yes, I agree that the degree at which it gets simulated or triggered might vary from person to person. But it is difficult to see somebody replace you, when your people believe it to be you, and you know that you would not be able to be a part of their life ever again. It is like a sacrifice that nobody ever gets to hear about. You make a world of a difference, but the world is unable to see it. You might get a posthumous recognition, but what difference does it make when you are not around to accept it.
Maybe Cameron’s reward was leaving this world with a feeling that his family was happy and taken care of. Love is not business. It is not a deal where you come only when you know that you would be fairly reciprocated. Maybe true love has always been altruistic in nature.
I hope that Cameron passed on from this life without a heavy heart. I hope that he had no grief. I hope that in his last moments, he knew that he had done the right thing.
Swan Song is like sung poetry that is calming yet disturbing, that is placid yet flustered, it is a conflict yet a conformity of the highest order. But most of all, it is about the act of letting go. Streaming on Apple TV, watch the film for its believable narrative and an extraordinary performance by Mahershala Ali.
Swan Song is a 2021 Science Fiction Drama film written and directed by Benjamin Cleary. It is streaming on Apple TV+.