And here we have a familiar story. Oh, not the fact that Closer to God is a modern updating of Frankenstein, swapping out reanimation of the dead for cloning: that is done rather cleverly. No, it’s the familiar story of many indie science-fiction dramas: they’ve got potentially intriguing ideas but don’t know what to do with them, and so what could have been an effective and eerie short film becomes a too-long — and this one is only 80 minutes! — feature that only hints at possibilities that seem deliberately left unexplored. Developing truly SFnal concepts and bringing them to a satisfying conclusion is hard, true, but it is beyond disappointing that so many filmmakers — including Closer’s writer-director Billy Senese — don’t even seem willing to push past the initial lightbulb and venture out in the narrative deep end with them.
Word of the birth of the first human clone leaks out before the scientist who created her, Victor Reed (Jeremy Childs: Country Strong), was ready to talk about the project, and now he has to contend with news pundits decrying him on TV and mobs of angry peasants wielding not torches but placards and shouting about how Baby Elizabeth has no soul and Reed shouldn’t be playing God, etc and so on. Senese does elegantly present a bit of intrigue with some secrets of Reed’s work (even if they are easily immediately guessed), but this comes off as the stuff of standard horror flicks, because that’s easier, I suppose, than getting down into the muck with the worries about morality, ethics, human rights, bodily integrity, and other cloning-adjacent matters that the film mentions and discards in the same breath. There might be new ground to break in the aftermath of the events we witness here, when Reed’s public-relations disaster and media circus will inevitably transform into something much, much more complicated, but Senese ducks out just as things heat up. Pity.