PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 19: Emilia Clarke gives an interview during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival “The Pod Generation” Premiere at Eccles Center Theatre on January 19, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
By Katie Small
In a seemingly seamless utopian future, AI therapists analyze your every mood, nutrition is streamlined through smart devices, nature is delivered to city-dwellers in temperature-controlled time capsules, and young parents can share the responsibilities of carrying a child to term via pods.
But how much of the human experience should be sacrificed for convenience? Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) grapple with this question in The Pod Generation as they pursue busy careers in a spotless apartment full of the convenient trappings of their modern age.
The two have opposing ideas about what constitutes “natural,” especially as it pertains to starting a family. Alvy, a dedicated botanist and lone voice defending the existence of real plants over hologram versions, would prefer a traditional pregnancy, whereas Rachel, a rising tech company executive, is eager to undergo an artificial pregnancy via pod.
A social satire of detachment parenting, Sophie Barthes’ third feature had already earned two awards before its January 19 premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. In a speech preceding the screening, Bartes explained the inspiration behind The Pod Generation: “Thirteen years ago I came [to Sundance] with my husband and cinematographer Andrij Parekh to present my first feature film, and coincidentally we had just discovered that we were expecting our first child,” she said. “Today we’re coming back with The Pod Generation, which was largely inspired by all the strange dreams I had during this pregnancy.”
Enigmatic dreams lurk ever-present beneath the surface of Barthes’ philosophical sci-fi. Throughout her nontraditional pregnancy, Rachel is plagued continually by bizarre dreams, but her AI therapist assures her that “dreams are not reliable analytical material – that’s so 20th century.” But when it’s revealed that babies born via pod are unable to dream at all, Rachel and Alvy begin to question the cost of commodifying nature.
In a Q&A after the film, Barthes defended the importance of dreams. “I think dreams are the subconscious trying to tell you something…they open a window into your psyche,” she mused. “I’ve learned a lot about myself through my dreams. I cherish dreams.”
Bold and visually striking, The Pod Generation’s lush production design, graceful cinematography, and emotive acting round out a playful, tangible sci-fi that is sure to spark imagination across generations.