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Hulu’s “Clock” (2023) Review

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Where to stream it? Hulu (premieres on Friday, April 28th)

Starring: Dianna Agron, Melora Hardin, Jay Ali, Grace Porter, Saul Rubinek, Laura Stuart, Stefan Sims, Nikita Patel, Rosa Gilmore, Charissa Allen, Kat Steffans

Written and directed by: Alexis Jacknow

Trigger Warning: Suicide, matters involving women's fertility

Intro: Hulu's Clock Review

The official trailer for Alexis Jacknow's Hulu feature film, Clock

Expanding from her October 2020 short of the same name, filmmaker and storyteller Alexis Jacknow highlights the psychological traumas amongst all women in her Hulu feature, Clock from 20th Century Studio. In its near-ninety-two minute runtime, the film's former half is quite slow, setting into motion both the internal and external conflicts of its protagonist, 37-year-old Jewish-American woman Mrs. Ella Patel (Dianna Agron).

By the time the midway point kicks into action, the film picks up into a moderate pace with intriguing narrative beats. Clock ends on an ambiguous note, which is to be expected of psychological horror thrillers. Yet while the feature can be seen as substantial in the latter half, its overall narrative feels rushed and could have benefited more from a runtime closer to two hours.

Tick Tock

At times when the film wants to be horrific and grave, Clock presents imagery that is not well-handled. Its opening scene involves a woman hanging herself from a swing set at what looks to be a public playground. The logos of its relevancy to the larger narrative does not quite make sense, but upon a second viewing, the scene becomes subtle at best. Furthermore, one can be appreciative of how it attempts to set the harsh and graphic tone of the film. Unfortunately, the bulk of its narrative does not quite match what the prologue offers. The thematic message that ties in with the title's conception of clocks (camera angles, placements of dinner dishes, literal clocks, and biological clocks) is oftentimes present.

A “very tall woman” (Rosa Gilmore) pops up to frighten the protagonist on occasion. In addition to that, an infinity symbol that appears here and there contradicts the impermanent vitality that the clocks represent. These two recurrences are indicative of the self-destruction that occurs in Ella, not to mention the apparent gradual loss of her senses.

At one point, Ella has a vision of a woman standing atop a table with a newborn baby swinging down from an umbilical cord, mirroring the pendulum of a grandfather clock. In another scene, the protagonist has some sort of obsession with a pregnant friend's water when the latter has a prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM), i.e. her water breaks. Whenever a new narrative element is introduced, the film utilizes insufficent room to draw out these ideas. It could find stronger success if it properly balanced these different elements within its runtime.

Eggs-actly What You Think For A Hulu Horror

Outside of the imagery and cacophony on its theme of clocks, Jacknow's Hulu film has a good amount to do with eggs. The first actual scene following the movie's opener begins with a tray of deviled eggs topped with roe (fish eggs). We later see Ella consuming a pan of undercooked chicken eggs, and more so, her specific placement of a carton of eggs is peculiar.

Akin to the feat which HBO's late-2019 limited series Watchmen accomplished, Hulu's Clock tries to explore a theme of inheritance through Ella's Jewish background. Her relationships with both her husband Aidan Patel (Jay Ali) and her father Joseph (Saul Rubinek) demonstrate some of the better performances and character dynamics. However, there could be more on this aspect – not to mention the others in the film – for Jacknow to develop the body of her story.

Views on Vitality in Jacknow's Hulu Horror

More on the matter, the film is unclear as to what its conflicts represent. On one hand, Ella makes pro-choice decisions about wanting to conceive a child with her husband. On the other hand, it appears rather difficult to ascertain whether external forces are fixed on an accentuated pro-life agenda. It is not necessarily that supporting characters are demanding Ella get pregnant. Instead, it looks as if most (or all) of them showcase a collective rhetorical means of a pro-life stance.

There are certain predictable ironies that the protagonist experiences, such as when one friend tells her that “[c]hildren are the best thing that will ever happen to you”, and then a child falls from a tree. Ultimately, Clock suffers from inadequately executing its overall message on vitality, leading to an anticlimactic conclusion consisting of dissatisfactory resolutions.

Final Thoughts: Hulu's Clock Review

Hulu's Clock Review
Ella Patel (Dianna Agron) looks at the water in Alexis Jacknow's psychological horror thriller, “Clock”. (Courtesy of Hulu)

On the bright side, supervising sound editor Zach Goheen and sound effects editor Renai Buchanan's sound designs of the ticking clock, such as that which appears over one-third of the way into the film, as well as of water add to the weight of its psychological thrills. However, these elements are not enough to prove Jacknow's larger point. Dianna Agron (Glee), Jay Ali (Daredevil Season 3), Saul Rubinek, and Melora Hardin (as Dr. Elizabeth Simmons) portray their characters fine, but there is only so much you can gather from each of them.

If Clock had a prolonged runtime, then it would have more space to balance and develop its array of narrative elements. Nonetheless, Jacknow's film as a final product is a Hulu horror thriller that does not quite deliver on the disquiet that could otherwise take the shape and form of a solid case of current modern women's body politics.

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John Daniel Tangalin
John Daniel Tangalin
Senior at the University of Guam Majoring in English Literature with a Minor in Writing. I watch a lot of films and television to keep up with popular culture.
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