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Closer to God (Review)

Closer to God Review

by C. Rachel Katz

Personally, I have no problem with human cloning so it can be hard for me to conceptualize or understand the moral and ethical objections people raise. But I can appreciate the debate, as an intellectual exercise, so movies about human cloning are always inherently interesting. Closer to God, which promotes itself as a kind of modern-day take on Frankenstein, brings up some interesting ideas about medical science but they come too late to have any real impact on the plot.

Read the interview with Director Billy Senese

Dr. Victor Reid has revealed to the world a viable human clone, a baby girl named Elizabeth. As is expected, Elizabeth stirs a lot of passions, and the film bounces back and forth between Dr. Reid and various interest groups. To the film's credit, the script devotes time to a number of different sides of the cloning debate, from the slippery-slope logic that foresees the end of humanity to those who worry baby Liz isn't getting proper care. To the film's discredit, the script doesn't devote a whole of time to developing a real story.

Closer to God
Directed by Billy Senese
Cast Jeremy Childs, Shelean Newman, Shannon Hoppe
Release Date 3 July 2015
Rachel's Grade: B-

The problem is one of balance. Before Elizabeth came into the world, there was another clone, Ethan. A great deal of story time to devoted to Ethan, both in flashback and in the present. Ethan is a true source of conflict, but the movie has a hard time making him part of the main plot. As for Elizabeth, true she's just a baby, but she drives the story. Or she's supposed to. Instead, the film shuffles back and forth between Reid, Mary (Ethan's caregiver), and the protesters parked outside Reid's house. Not a whole lot happens on the baby Liz front, too much happens with Mary and Ethan, and the protesters are all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Never mind the fact that Reid has a neglected wife and kids, a treacherous staff member, and a stalker.

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If all these disparate elements were better woven together, Closer to God could have been a decent, slow burning drama. The film has all the ingredients, just not in the right proportions. To truly mine the moral and ethical limits of medical science, the story has to make room for intra- and inter-personal conflict on the subject. There are no impediments, nothing standing in Reid's way—indeed Elizabeth is born when the movie begins, she's kept away from the public for the entirety of the film, and isn't threatened at home. In fact, there's no real conflict of any sort in the plot; all dilemmas that do exist are embodied in Ethan who lives largely offscreen.

I'm not saying Closer to God needs to be loud and noisy. Were the film crammed full of argument and exposition, I'd likely criticize a lack of subtlety. Rather, what's missing is opposition, which could take any form. Reid's dissenting assistant could have been a source of conflict, but when she quits her job and speaks with the media, she effectively walks out of the story. Or the stalker, who appears two-and-a-half times, could have caused a great deal of worry for Reid and his family, but he's only there to serve one very explicit purpose (which we never fully understand).

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Human cloning, as a subject, is rife with possibilities, and Closer to God does a good job moving away from cloning as a plot device to cloning as a controlling idea. It's always interesting to see a story told from the other side, and Closer to God is pro-clone from start to finish. It's just unfortunate that its ideas about medicine and science, life and humanity, don't get the full treatment they deserve.

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