(Nick Hamm, USA, 2004)


"Bad seed" stories about evil children are legion in the movies, posing in a melodramatic form St Augustine’s deathless question: Where does evil come from? The twentieth century version of this question – is it nature or nurture that makes people the way they are – receives a twenty-first century spin, thanks to cloning technology, in the disappointing Godsend.

Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are the parents of a lovable eight year-old, Adam (Cameron Bright). After an accident takes the child’s life, the couple are approached by the brilliant Dr Wells (Robert De Niro), who offers them a second chance at parenthood.

All is well until this new Adam reaches the age of eight. Then signs of disturbing, disruptive, evil behaviour appear. Godsend is, apart from a few predictable shock effects, only lightly a horror movie. It is essentially a mystery probing into the possible explanations for Adam’s psychology.

The film dribbles away as it proceeds. But, underneath the convolutions and rationalisations of its fanciful plot, it is possible to detect a more mundane level of anxiety. Godsend is a neurotic meditation on child rearing. Many incidents point to the unfathomable mystery of how any child will turn out, as well as to the sacrifices that every parent makes.

British director Nick Hamm has worked in a spray of genres including romantic comedy (The Very Thought of You, 1998) and supernatural mystery (The Hole, 2001). He is unable to do much with his material here.

Although the lead actors give creditable performances, De Niro is wasted in the type of sinister role for which he has had a fatal weakness since Angel Heart (1986).

© Adrian Martin July 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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