Synopsis: A woman who enrolls in a clinical trial to try and fix her seemingly broken biological clock after friends, family, and society pressures her to have children.
Stars: Dianna Agron, Melora Hardin, Saul Rubinek, Jay Ali
Director: Alexis Jacknow
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: We’ve barely gotten to the end of April, and already 2023 has been a weird year for moms onscreen. February’s Baby Ruby found the idyllic life of a famous blogger undone by her pregnancy, with the difficult birth and subsequent post-partum depression mined for all its real-world horrors. It’s not out yet, but Birth/Rebirth will deliver soon on Shudder, and it will put mothers through the wringer as they watch a nurse team up with a pathologist to bring her deceased daughter back from the dead. Now there’s Clock, a Hulu original that aims to join the ranks of these effective mommy movies but can’t quite make its case thanks to muddy execution on the flimsy premise.
Having made up her mind long ago not to have children, it’s only recently that Ella (Dianna Agron, The Family) has started to feel the pressure around her growing to reconsider her decision. Her widowed and lonely father (Saul Rubinek, Blackberry) always raises the subject in passing, frustrating his daughter in the process. Though her husband Aidan (Jay Ali) entered their marriage with the same outlook on parenting, he has even appeared to change his stance. Surrounded by new mothers or mommies-to-be, Ella surprises herself when she agrees to upend her life and participate in a recent study by Dr. Simmons (Melora Hardin) at a private retreat.
Until this juncture, writer/director Alexis Jacknow had been making good headway in solidifying the argument that women claim to feel ostracized from their peer group if they aren’t in line to start families. Give in and have a baby and you may resent your child because you had them for the wrong reasons, resist and stick to your gut and feel the need to defend your right not to procreate constantly. Unfortunately, the moment Ella steps into the study with Dr. Simmons, Clock starts to wind down rapidly, devolving from a thriller going somewhere to a film that’s hitting its snooze button.
Mumbo-jumbo is the best way to describe what’s going on in the latter part of the film during sessions between Ella and Dr. Simmons. You might be tempted to be swayed by the stellar performance of Hardin, who is quite convincing in her role, but you get to the point where even Hardin can’t keep it all straight. Agron’s not much help either, losing all her strong character traits established in the beginning for the sake of the script. The same goes for Rubinek, who enters the picture with a gleam in his eye but comes back for another scene so changed for the worse (he gets downright hostile) it’s as if the character’s backstory was rewritten entirely. Also – you’ll likely be asking yourself where true horror is in this horror film – because it’s rarely rousing. (Save for one shot I won’t spoil that will have men instinctively crossing their legs and grimacing.)
I appreciate that Hulu continues to throw money at filmmakers with new voices, especially those expanding earlier good works into longer feature-length films. As with the upcoming Appendage, (like Clock, adapted from that director’s earlier short film), I hoped this would find a way back to a solid center by its conclusion, but there’s little left to scrape together by the finale. Even with Hardin keeping the gears turning for most of the running time, it can’t stop this Clock from breaking down.