Lately, there has been an increase in fascinating Jewish-horror films. The Overlook Film Festival brings audiences another film in that unique subgenre titled Clock, the latest Hulu original film. Making her feature film debut, Clock was written and directed by Alexis Jacknow. The film follows Ella, a happily married woman with a great career and a wonderful life. There’s just one problem; she doesn’t want to have kids. With everyone around her telling Ella she needs to start a family, she resorts to drastic measures to try and “fix” whatever is making her not want children, but everything comes at a price.
Any adult woman who doesn’t have kids will likely relate to this film. Whether by choice or for other reasons, being a childless woman is something everyone has an opinion about. Clock does a wonderful job of conveying what it’s like to constantly hear others say you need to have kids, you need to start a family, having a child is the greatest thing a woman can do, and so on. If a woman doesn’t have a baby, everyone assumes something is wrong with her, either mentally or physically. The film presents this reality, but then allows the audience to consider what they would do if they were offered a unique opportunity. What if a doctor could somehow “fix” your body so that you would want to have a baby? How far would you go to be considered normal by the rest of the world and do what is expected of you as a woman?
For the most part, the filmmakers do a fine job of conveying these concepts, demonstrating the external pressure a woman gets to have children. Where it seems to falter a bit is in the overall message that it’s okay to not have a baby. By the time the film ends, that is clearly what the filmmaker is trying to say, but that realization only comes from the protagonist. Everyone around Ella seems to be so opposed to her childless lifestyle that she has no one on her side. It creates the illusion it’s fine to not have kids, but you might end up sad and alone. At its core, Clock is trying to send the right message, but it gets muddied a bit with the horror elements.
To match Clock‘s tale of a desperate attempt to want a baby, there is some truly horrific imagery throughout the film. Some of it, quite honestly, might be triggering for particular audiences. If you’re sensitive to scenes of childbirth and similar depictions, then this is likely not the film for you. There is a lot of wonderfully done practical effects to create these shocking images, many of them having clear metaphorical meaning that strengthens the impact they leave behind. While most of the imagery is fantastic, there is also a bit of CGI that isn’t quite as well done. These images detract some from the overall appeal, but the practically done effects do help to make up for it. Audiences should be sure to pay attention to how color is used throughout the film. It adds an extra layer of interest and intrigue while also making the climax of the film more impactful.
A highlight of Clock is the strong performances. Dianna Agron (Glee, Shiva Baby) steals the show starring as Ella. Agron is fascinating to watch, in one moment making Ella seem like a woman with a perfect life, then in the next making Ella appear almost animalistic. There is a visceral side to Agron’s performance that heightens the tension, while also tugging at the heartstrings. Melora Hardon (The Office, 27 Dresses) plays the seemingly helpful Dr. Elizabeth Simmons. What makes Hardon’s performance stand out is how she can convey a sense of professionalism and empathy, yet there is a sinister edge to her. Whether that dark side is just Ella’s imagination or not, only time will tell. Other great performances come from Saul Rubinek (Hunters) and Jay Ali (Daredevil).
Clock uses horror to convey the struggle of being a childless woman and the lengths one is willing to go to in order to feel “normal.” Jacknow highlights a real-world issue in a compelling way. Using horror does help to highlight how harmful outside influence can be on a person just trying to live the life they want, but in this case, the horror elements may detract from the message the filmmaker is trying to send. The gore and imagery really pushes the boundaries and creates striking scenes audiences won’t forget. Yet at the same time, some of that imagery might prove too difficult for some viewers to watch. One thing can’t be denied, and that’s Agron’s phenomenal performance. Even if Clock isn’t for you, it’s still a thought-provoking, powerful film debut for Jacknow, and audiences are sure to take notice of her future work.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10