Ella Patel (Dianna Agron) is nearing her 38th birthday, and her life couldn’t be better. She has a beautiful home, a fantastic career as an in-demand interior designer, and an attentive doctor husband, Aiden (Jay Ali), whom her passion is still burning for after 10 years of marriage. Despite this fulfillment, writer-director Alexis Jacknow presents Ella with an issue that all women face in the societal, religious, and familial pressures of having a child. In an earlier film release this year, Baby Ruby chronicled what post-partum depression could look like from the viewpoint of a first-time mother. Clock gets to the root of the patriarchal standards women have to operate within with a sometimes grim filter.
Perhaps slowly but surely, we’re coming around to the fact that not everyone has to live under the decree of “be fruitful and multiply.” Clock bombards Ella’s autonomy in subtle and overt ways from other people in her life. The film begins at her best friend Shauna’s (Grace Porter) baby shower – whereas many of the women talk about post-pregnancy issues, Ella tunes out. She’s averse to touching Shauna’s stomach and is overwhelmed with comments about what her day-to-day looks like and how having a child is the best thing in the world.
At home, it’s no different. While Aiden has understood her choice, Ella’s father, Joseph (Saul Rubinek), frequently speaks to her about the religious and ancestral ramifications of not procreating. Their family are Holocaust survivors; thus, there’s more of an urgency placed on Ella to continue it. She has always contended that her biological clock is broken. Still, all the undue insistence has Ella leave her dream job high and dry and go to a facility holding a clinical trial. Gynecologist Dr. Elizabeth Simmons (Melora Hardin) claims her ten-day methods would be able to cure what ails Ella – first from a psychological perspective and then with an implant.
Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan (as with any psychological horror film). Ella starts to have upsetting imagery of spiders, a ghastly tall woman, and a grandfather clock that has long-rooted significance to her. Clock never really allows Ella to breathe, and that’s effective because of the nuance and measurements in Agron’s performance and the writing of Jacknow. With all these elements at play, it would be easier for a film to lose itself in servicing all of its masters. Instead, the narrative strives to give all the issues gnawing at Ella’s sense of personal independence moments to breathe.
When Ella starts to go through the “synthetic medication” protocol after the implant is inserted, cinematographer Martim Vian introduces a palate that’s washed on. Suddenly, all the color and brightness within this world have been overcome by a suffocating shade of grey. This is a challenging development for someone in Ella’s profession, but it also doubles as a metaphor for her giving up all she’s worked for this one thing. Where her days were filled with relaxation and projects she cared about, Ella slowly succumbs to being attached to her artificial pre-natal disposition. It’s a troubled descent into madness, helped by some quick, disturbing visuals while in sensory deprivation tanks. This is even if all the film’s twists might not be as revelatory as they hope, and the jump scares are more or less standard.
Why can’t we leave well enough alone regarding how women exhibit power over their reproductive rights and how they use them? In these times, the horror genre has become an outlet for how all facets of this process are rooted in something other than a single woman’s choice. Clock presents the fact that nothing is wrong with not having a child and the valid reasons why someone might not want to have one. Ella speaks about her reasons concerning her hesitancy, considering her family history and that something like that can happen again.
Could you blame her? No. However, she exists in a world where everybody drowns out those concerns for “what’s supposed to be.” Jacknow presents possible demonic entities in Clock, but social constructs might be the scariest thing.