Swan Song
Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Mahershala Ali delivers another stellar performance in Swan Song

Five years after winning an Oscar for Best Short Film, director Benjamin Clearly makes his feature debut in Swan Song from Apple TV+. Set in the near future and told through the eyes of Cameron (Mahershala Ali), the film is an emotional journey about what we will do for those we love. Cameron is a loving husband and father who is expecting his second child with his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris). When Cameron is diagnosed with a terminal illness, his doctor (Glenn Close) presents him with an alternative solution involving clones. Her mindset is it will shield his family from grief. As Cameron grapples with whether or not to alter his family’s fate, he learns more about life and love than he ever imagined.

After reading the initial premise for Swan Song, memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2000 flop, The 6th Day, entered my mind. Thankfully, director Benjamin Clearly took notes from that film and improved on the always conversational, yet intriguing ideas of clones. Clearly opens the film introducing us to Cameron on a train, and instantly we know that he is a likable guy. Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali continues to command the screen with his honest, everyman persona. 

As we learn about Cameron’s diagnosis, the question of ‘what would you do’ in the situation comes front and center. Just think if you were dying and could import your memories into a nearly perfect copy of yourself. You then step aside to let the duplicate take over your life without your family’s knowledge of the switch and save them some grief. 

Ali plays the clone who carries the moniker of “Jack.” Portraying both roles gives the actor a chance to display his dramatic range, as one minor slip-up could affect the ruse. While I won’t spoil the minor detail that separates Cameron from Jack, I did find it rather clever. Over the course of the film, I can say that I was expecting the film to go into the thriller route, where the clone goes rogue, but that moment never comes. Instead, director and writer Benjamin Clearly focuses on the beauty of being a husband and father. 

Even the supporting cast of Glenn Close as Cameron’s doctor, Naomie Harris as his wife, and Awkwafina as a confidant avoid all of the stereotypical tropes. Like Dr. Scott, Close gives off the vibes of generally wanting the best for Cameron. Awkwafina provides some decent comic relief in her brief role but avoids her usual comedy stylings. However, I must say that Naomie Harris was my favorite supporting character.

Harris’s character of Poppy has an arc that aligns with Cameron’s, which I won’t reveal. Harris also gets a chance to show off her musicianship skills, delivering a touching cover of a Prince classic that correlates perfectly with the film. Swan Song is a film that fell under my radar as a critic, and I honestly forgot it was coming out.

I will advise viewers that Swan Song isn’t actual commercial sci-fi, outside of one or two scenes. My son wanted quality time with me and attempted to watch the film but tapped out after 15 minutes because of all that is going on. That said, Swan Song is a slow burn, but there were no regrets about watching the film when the credits rolled.

Guided by another winning performance from Mahershala Ali, Swan Song is worth checking out if you are a fan of the actor.

Final Grade: B

Swan Song is available to stream on Apple TV+ tomorrow, December 17th. 

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