Movie Review

 

Godsend posterGodsend

Production Company: Lions Gate Films
Director: Nick Hamm
Principles:
Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro
Rating: PG-13

By Greg Tubbs

(UMCom) -- If you lost someone you loved - someone irreplaceable - and then found science could bring that person back, what would you do? Would you leave behind everyone you loved? Would you break the law? Would you abandon your moral and ethical code? Those are the questions at the heart of the new thriller Godsend. But the scariest thing about this story of the cloning of a lost child is that what was once science fiction could soon be science fact.

Wracked with guilt and grief, Paul and Jessie are approached by secretive Dr. Wells (Robert De Niro) a fertility expert. All images copyright © 2004 Lions Gate Films
Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos play Paul and Jessie, grieving parents unable to cope with the loss of their only son, Adam, in a freak accident. Jessie is particularly anguished because she believes her negligence may have caused his death. Wracked with guilt and grief, the couple is approached by secretive Dr. Wells (Robert De Niro) a fertility expert who promises to give them not just another child, but another Adam, through an experimental cloning procedure.

At first Paul and Jessie are shocked by his offer. What Wells is suggesting is not only illegal, but as Paul points out "possibly unethical and immoral." Jessie disagrees. Her absolute devotion to Adam is foreshadowed in an earlier scene when she tells Paul when it comes to Adam "ethics have to take a backseat!" They finally relent and agree to the procedure, but the doctor’s solution proves to be a veritable primrose path. It also comes at a cost. Paul and Jessie must leave their old lives and jobs and make no further contact with anyone who knew them and their son, Adam.

When the reborn Adam reaches the age of 8, the age when his earlier incarnation died, things begin to unravel. All images copyright © 2004 Lions Gate Films
After the procedure, Jessie gives birth to their new, cloned son, who they eerily name after his genetic predecessor. For several years their new life is idyllic, and Adam No. 2 is an answer to their prayers. But when the reborn Adam reaches the age of 8, the age when his earlier incarnation died, things begin to unravel. And in a way, the film does, too, as it fails to fulfill its philosophically intriguing premise. It becomes just another "cloned" thriller, borrowing parts from "The Sixth Sense," "The Omen" and most of all "Frankenstein." This is disappointing because while the rest of Godsend delivers chills as sweet young Adam turns demonic, terrifying classmates and then his own parents, I for one was hoping for more exploration of the cloning issue itself. Instead of considering whether Adam’s cloning was right or wrong, the characters in the film just focus on the fact that in this case, it went wrong.

Human cloning is such a complex and divisive moral and ethical issue among Christian groups that there’s no clear consensus. One argument is that man was created in the image of God, whereas cloned people would be constructed in the image of man, violating the divine order of creation. There’s also serious concern over the objectification of children, by making children the "product" of human design and not the result of the God’s natural process. Some see the concept of "designer children" whose physical and mental traits are "made to order" as the vehicle for a genetic chaste system based on wealth. In other words, you would get the best children you could afford!

Paul and Jessie help celebrate reborn Adam’s birthday. All images copyright © 2004 Lions Gate Films
But most troubling is that it could diminish the value of human life. It took scientists 277 tries before they successfully arrived at the healthy cloned sheep Dolly. The unsuccessful "Dollys" either didn’t survive or were abnormal to varying degrees. With the increased complexity of human genetics, the potential for similar failed attempts at cloning a human is, to most people, horrifying. The issue of "waste embryos" is equally distressing since it involves the destruction of viable human embryos once the best embryo is selected for continuation. To many, this is akin to reducing human life to a patch of radishes that needs to be thinned.

However, cloning and genetic engineering, whether to battle disease, solve infertility or produce compatible organs for transplant, also have the potential for great healing. Could it be that man’s God-given intellect, mechanical ability and hunger for discovery are actually part of his plan for our betterment and happiness? Questions like these are why religious groups, government officials and the scientific community are in hot debate over the issue. The answers are still unclear. But as Albert Einstein commented at the dawn of the nuclear age, "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." Let’s hope that the debates continue, and our humanity begins to catch up.

Gregg Tubbs is a freelance writer living in Columbia, Maryland.

This article was developed by UMC.org, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.



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