Directed by Hungarian filmmaker Benedek Fliegauf in 2010, Womb (his first English language feature, also known in the UK as Clone) begins in a small town along the sea where we meet a nine year old girl named Rebecca (Ruby O. Fee) who is there visiting her grandfather for a little while. Soon after arriving, she meets and becomes very close with a ten year old boy named Tommy (Tristan Christopher). When Rebecca's mother accepts a job in Japan and whisks her off with her, their relationship is cut short but twelve years later, an adult Rebecca (Eva Green) heads back to that same town and manages to track down Tommy (Matt Smith) in hopes of starting over. They fall in love fast and hard and things are going great until Tommy is killed a car accident.
Distraught and broken hearted, Rebecca soon decides that there is a way to bring him back to her and so she meets with his parents, Judith (Lesley Manville) and Ralph (Peter Wight) to discuss cloning Tommy and recreating him inside her womb. Judith is understandably uncomfortable with this idea, but Ralph's reaction is less kneejerk. Unbeknownst to Judith, he signs the appropriate paperwork that Rebecca needs to move forward with this and with everything in place, she goes about becoming a surrogate mother to a cloned version of the man she once loved. The birth goes surprisingly well and soon enough, she's raising Tommy (Tristan Christopher) as his mother, having told him that his father was killed before he was born. Tommy soon starts to experience discrimination at the hands of the other kids in the area. When their parents find out he's a clone they refuse to let their children affiliate with him and, seemingly with the best of intentions, Rebecca decides to combat this by taking Tommy away and living with him alone, removed from society. With his mother his only companion, Tommy's relationship develops into something more than maternal, though as he gets older and matures he meets and falls for Monica (Hannah Murray), which causes Rebecca some conflict. With both mother and 'son' confused about their relationship and Tommy completely unsure of what exactly is going on, an unexpected visit from Judith is the last thing either of them need.
Shot on location in Germany, Womb makes great use of its barren, isolated locations. Plenty of slow, lingering shots accentuate the loneliness that obviously plays a very big part in the story rather effectively. Though the storyline itself is a bit predictable (it's not difficult to figure out where things are headed with Rebecca and the 'young man' cloned version of Tommy) it's nicely acted by both of the leads. Matt Smith is definitely reeled in here when you compare his performance in this picture to his work in Doctor Who but he suits the role well. He's given a couple of opportunities to be eccentric in the movie, a trait he has shown a knack for during his time in the TARDIS. He never chews the scenery and does an impressive job with the more conflicted aspects required of his character and his interactions with Eva Green as Rebecca give the film a solid anchor. Green is also excellent here. Not only is she a beautiful woman but she's quite a talented actress and this movie gives her plenty of opportunity to prove that. As her character's obsessions become more obvious and more involved, her performance becomes increasingly conflicted. Rebecca is both mother and lover to Tommy, and understandably this leads to all manner of soul searching and what not. She does it well - though the film falls short in that she really doesn't seem to age a whole lot here, even as cloned Tommy grows from child to man in front of the camera.
Womb isn't a perfect film, however. We don't get to know either of the lead characters all that well as children, and so their whirlwind romance as adults before Tommy's death feels too quick, too forced. A bit more character development, particularly on the part of the character of Rebecca, would have filled things out very nicely and made for a more engaging film. The movie does, however, feature some beautiful cinematography and a great score. On top of that it does a clever job of subtly blending science fiction trappings with art house drama into something that should prove interesting to fans of either. At times it seems to channel both Bergman and Kubrick, without every borrowing too heavily from either filmmaker, but for the most part it's an engaging, quirky picture. Womb manages to tackles themes of incest, isolation and the impending onset of advancements in reproductive technology while still managing to tell a good story.
Womb looks very good on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. First things first, however, and that's to go into the movie knowing that a lot of color tweaking has been done here and that a lot of scenes use a soft focus. So this means that sometimes the colors look a little cooler (read: blue tinting) than they might otherwise and that sometimes the detail in those softly lit scenes isn't quite as razor sharp as it could be. With that said, however, the movie definitely does take advantage of the added resolution that the format offers. Those soft scenes aside (they're not a constant), detail is pretty impressive, especially in close up scenes. Texture is also quite good here, you'll notice it a lot in the different pieces of clothing that the performers wear. Black levels are nice and strong, showing no problems with shadow detail or any compression issues, while edge enhancement and noise reduction are never a concern resulting in nice, normal looking skin tones. All in all, the movie looks very good - no complaints here.
The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is a good one. Some will lament the absence of a 5.1 mix but the stereo track is considerably fuller than you'd probably expect. There are a lot of different types of sound effects used almost constantly throughout this movie, some more subtle than others, and all of them come through very clearly here and with the right amount of presence. Dialogue stays crisp and clear while the impressive score adds some welcome emotional depth to the movie. Would some rear channel activity have made for a more enveloping experience? Probably, but that didn't happen (though the specs online for the UK Blu-ray release indicate that there was one available on that disc). What's here is good though. No alternate language or subtitle options are provided.
Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, we get a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Olive Films releases.
If Womb is flawed, it's no less interesting or worth seeing because of it. Both leads do a fine job here and the production values and cinematography are generally top notch. The story is an interesting one, it makes you think and it makes you feel, which is more than can be said about most films. Olive's Blu-ray release is really light on extras, and that does hurt the package overall, but it looks and sounds good and given the quality of the feature itself, easily comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.