However sincerely intended it is, there is something jarringly misjudged and misconceived (and not especially well acted) in this peculiar Europuddingy film from writer-director Julie Delpy. It starts out as a wrenchingly painful human drama. But having clumsily invoked the most intimate of family tragedies, it lurches into a preposterous melodrama from a Huxley-esque dystopia.
The setting is the present or near-future (some tech innovations tip you off) and Delpy plays Isabelle, a French scientist living in Berlin with her six-year-old daughter Zoe (Sophia Ally), whose custody arrangements she is negotiating with her angry British ex-husband James (Richard Armitage). He’s an abusive and controlling figure who never supported her career and accused her of neglecting their daughter.
After what appears to have been a boisterous day’s play under the nanny’s care, Zoe goes to bed in Isabelle’s apartment in a weird, subdued, headachey state and falls instantly asleep, while Isabelle has her new boyfriend over. Those squeamish about spoilers and narrative absurdity had better look away now.
After Zoe’s death, there is a long and entirely ridiculous plot in which we head off into sci-fi issue-movie silliness. Isabelle gets in touch with a controversial doctor (Daniel Brühl) who can apparently clone Zoe from cells Isabelle has covertly jabbed from her comatose daughter’s arm in the hospital while no one was looking. Did anyone tell Isabelle that, even if this procedure is successful, the resulting baby would not “be” Zoe? Has anyone put her in the picture about the tricky nature/nurture debate, without which this film is even more meaningless than it already is? Evidently not.
Delpy sells it hard with her performance but the supporting cast are unconvincing, and the whole thing is a waste of everyone’s time.
• On digital platforms from 5 October.