ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke to Clock star Saul Rubinek about the psychological horror movie. Rubinek discussed his affinity for horror and the themes of Clock. The film is now streaming on Hulu (watch and read more interviews.)
“Clock is the story of a woman who enrolls in a clinical trial to try and fix her seemingly broken biological clock after friends, family, and society pressures her to have children,” reads the movie’s synopsis.
Spencer Legacy: What was it about Clock that made you want to be a part of it?
Saul Rubinek: I’ve been a horror fan since I was a little kid, and it’s such an unusual subject for a horror movie, right? I found it very unpredictable — a really interesting page-turner. I wasn’t sure where it was going next. Also because it’s a horror movie whose subject is not usually horror, but doesn’t usually have a subject that’s like this. I mean, it’s basically about a woman who feels guilt and shame because she hasn’t got what’s what she’s supposed to have, according to society, which is maternal instincts. So a biological clock urging her to have a child, which sends her spinning down a psychotic abyss. I had written a play about 12 years ago called Terrible Advice. Terrible Advice was on in London with Scott Bakula, Sharon Horgan, directed by Frank Oz.
One of the characters, the character played by Sharon Horgan, is a woman [who] … lies to her best friend and her lovers, and to her parents and everybody, in her late 30s, that she can’t have children. She’s told everybody that for years, and the truth is that she probably could. There’s no biological reason that she can’t. But she also can’t point to a big major career reason for that choice. She’s always found it easier to say, “I can’t,” rather than, “I don’t want to”. She avoids a lot of judgment when doing that. Since I’d written a character like that and had worked with different actors on that role in the workshop and explored in real life characters who had that thing, I was interested because, for one thing, I have a daughter and I’ve been married for a long time.
The issues in my world of abortion or a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with their body are not problematic. It’s not a contentious issue in our family or in our group of friends. But I would have to say that in society in general, in almost every culture — I would guess every culture — there is an unspoken taboo that women don’t talk about as often, which has to do with whether or not they even want children . It’s one thing to make a decision. You may want children, or you may feel that urge, but you have a high-powered career, or you don’t feel you have the support system around you, whatever that might be, to have children. You make a decision not to have children. It’s another thing to actually not feel any need for it at all.
Men are not centered for this. I can’t think of men who say, “Yeah, I never want kids.” I don’t think that there’s a pressure on men culturally and maybe in most societies. However, for women, I would imagine that there is a subtle pressure, if not subtle sometimes. My character, the dad — who I really wanted to make a likable ordinary dad — doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, [but] inadvertently puts tremendous pressure on his daughter to have children, including, eventually, feeling that all the ancestors who’ve survived all these years, including survived the Holocaust, have been betrayed somehow by the line not continuing. So the shame and guilt that’s felt by women transferred somehow very bravely by Alexis [Jacknow], the screenwriter and director, into a horror movie, was really new to me. It’s such a unique project. It was very easy to say.
At times, the movie straddles the line of what’s real and what’s not happening in the movie. It’s almost like you’re playing two versions of a character since you’re this hallucination version and this regular version. How did you prepare for that, and was it difficult to play the two versions?
I don’t think there really were two versions for me. For me, I just played the reality of it, and it was the way it was filmed that created a different version of it. It really is my character that tears up the photographs from an album. — that’s not a fantasy. Her fantasy isn’t so much about me or the other people in her lives. It’s a surreal kind of acid trip that she goes on, medically induced by the Dr. Frankenstein character — this woman who’s basically trying to give her some kind of medication to jumpstart what is supposed to be a natural maternal instinct in her. So the premise is fucked up right from the beginning, that women are supposed to biologically, naturally feel a maternal instinct.
The two-part Netflix documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is about how beautiful she was and how she was lauded since childhood for her looks alone. But the second part of the documentary, she talks about postpartum depression, which just about destroyed her, about the shame and guilt she felt about it. Eventually she opened up, she wrote a book about it, and it allowed other women to talk about a subject that was kind of taboo, which is not wanting to be close to the child that you’ve just given birth to, which induced a lot of shame and guilt.
She was brave enough to write about it and certainly brave enough to allow this documentary. This is not the same thing, but there is a similarity here about shame and guilt, about what you’re supposed to feel as a mom or as a potential mom. So that part of the movie is very unusual. I think horror film fans will not know what’s coming next, because the subject matter is usually dealt with in a much different genre — either a heavy dramatic film, or or some kind of dramady situation about pregnancy and about the pressure that a family might have .
All the pressures, “Aren’t you getting married yet?” That goes to men and women. “I really want grandchildren.” That’s the stuff of comedy. All that stuff that we’ve seen in sitcoms, romantic comedies, and parent-child relationships, Alex turned it on his head and said, “No, this is also the subject for horror. This is could also be a very dark subject.” So that was a really brave thing for the actors — for Dianna [Agron] especially, who played the lead role — to go through, and for Alex to have written and directed. I’m really glad that it got picked up. I think that will give it the audience it deserves. So it’s a really cool, very interesting, very unusual film, especially for fans of the genre.