Baby Done (Review): Dramatic Rom-Com Gets Serious
Baby Done is a pure and human rom-com that chronicles the joyful experience of pregnancy through light-hearted humour and a tragically serious edge.
For most people, life can be easily summarised in four simple words which hold the power to make or break hearts, relationships, families, and carreers: Marriage – House – Baby – Done. New Zealand’s newest amusing comedy Baby Done is the brainchild (and post-pregnancy therapy, to be fair) of director Curtis Vowell (Shortland Street) and writer Sophie Henderson (Human Traces, Auckland Daze). Having first worked together on the 2013 series Fantail, the real-life married couple joined forces once more to chronicle what is essentially an autobiography. Many of the events covered in the film were experienced by Vowel and Henderson themselves. Terrified of becoming a mum, Henderson has admitted that she tried to live nine months like they were her last – and has even confessed that she certainly was not a well-behaved pregnant woman.
In a hilarious role reversal, Baby Done follows freedom-loving Zoe (Rose Matafeo, Squinters, Golden Boy) and ready-to-be-a-dad Tim (Matthew Lewis, Harry Potter franchise) from a pregnancy-surprise right up to the birth. The last standing couple of their friends to have a baby (apart from single Molly, played by Emily Barclay, of Glitch and Sisters), arborist colleagues and lovers Zoe and Tim are far from ready to become parents. They decide to compile and follow-through a bucket-list before freedom as they know it forever changes. With less time till their child’s birth than they ever imagined, they are sucked into a whirlwind of actions and (emotional) decisions that might just cost them their relationship. While Tim runs towards being a dad and Zoe fervently runs away from being a mum, they somehow still manage to crash against each other – but will they burn? Tim’s care and protective love, combined with Zoe’s dedication to living life to its fullest, result in a variety of comedic offbeat incidents. A failed threesome on XTC, a pregnancy belly cast with a ‘pregaphile’ (Nic Samson), almost-labour in an airplane, and a golden-flaked party popper in an operation room, to name a few.
Baby Done certainly embraces Henderson’s rebellious spirit, with many surprises and delights awaiting its audience. A true rollercoaster-ride of emotions, not only does the film show you our main characters age emotionally from laidback thirty-something into soon-to-be-parents, but it visually (and emotionally) pushes our limits of what we find acceptable for a pregnant woman to do. And yet, there is nothing truly bizarre, offending, outlandish, or sickening to be seen here. Vowell shows us nothing but an honest portrayal of awkwardly expressed anxieties mixed with whimsical hormonally spurred drives to defy the change that will certainly come with having a child. Baby Done, as a title, can refer to that four-letter mantra imprinted on us by society. However, I much more prefer to see it as quite literally referring to how Zoe grows from being a baby herself, to a welcoming parent.
As much as Henderson’s was not a well-behaved pregnant woman, Baby Done is certainly not a well-behaved film. Whenever you think you have calculated exactly where the plot is going, Rose Matafeo throws you a curveball that makes you sympathise with poor Matthew Lewis all the more. What starts out as your expected slapstick romcom from the winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award for her Edinburgh Fringe Festival act Horndog, quickly turns cynically sour. An increasingly erratic, irate, and manic mess, Zoe’s complete denial of her pregnancy, while absolutely hilarious, also carries a dark undercurrent masked by deadpan humour. About 1 in 475 women are affected by pregnancy denial, a condition in which a woman denies that she is pregnant. It can occur in both psychotic and non-psychotic forms. The denial usually ends between 27 and 32 weeks of pregnancy; quite coincidentally, (or not?) Zoe only finds out she is pregnant when she’s at 27 weeks.
Of the past year, Baby Done is perhaps the only film I have seen that manages to break a very serious and disconcerting topic with the amount of well-delivered, hilarious one-liners it is rich of. With a lead fulfilled by New Zealand’s (and probably one of the world’s) funniest stand-up comedians, how could it not be. From “the hen’s parties and baby showers have started blurring together” to “tape worm can cause false positive pregnancy tests,” Zoe’s impulsively disarming thinking, combined with her at times irrational expressions and actions, can be, without a doubt, relatable for many (pregnant) women. Baby Done balances between Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007) in depth and Knocked-Up (Judd Apatow, 2007) in hilarity, though I highly doubt the comparison to either would do the film true justice. If its similar style to Hunt For The Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016) doesn’t sway you over, than certainly its pitch perfect Kiwi soundtrack on the journey to parenthood will. In any case, Baby Done is the best laughing (and crying) therapy 91 minutes will ever give you. New Zealand’s cinema is exactly what 2021 needs.
Baby Done was released in the UK from 22nd January.