Swan Song ★★★★
Starring Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Awkwafina, Glenn Close, Adam Beach, Lee Shorten
I often struggle with movies where the subject matter is bleak. It’s something I tend to avoid in favour of something a little lighter. Set in the near future, Swan Song tells the story of Cameron (Mahershala Ali) who, after discovering he has a terminal illness, is offered an alternative and experimental route to shield his family from grief.
Although the plot, when read as a synopsis is a bit of a downer, the film itself doesn’t play out like that at all. It is in fact a fascinating study in facing one’s own flaws and is one of those “what would I do in this situation” experiences.
Mahershala has a lot of work to do here, playing himself twice, but he is the highlight of the film. When Cameron meets himself for the first time you expect there to be big differences between the two of them but instead the relationship is understated and awkward. In fact, the whole film is understated, with events going as they probably should, rather being blown out of proportion for the sake of quick entertainment. There are moments of risk which peter out quickly and change into a beautiful moment of reconciliation with Cameron’s family rather than an explosive argument which you can imagine happening if this film was placed in different hands.
This is Benjamin Cleary’s first feature-length picture and I’m interested to see where he goes next! Swan Song is nice to look at, with the futuristic touches not overdone but feel like things that could actually happen for the most part.
Rest assured that this isn’t as depressing as it sounds. While not perfect, and not really a feel good romp, Swan Song has enough going for it to stick on your watch list for a winter watch.
Swan Song available now on Apple TV+