Synopsis – As if getting pregnant weren’t complicated enough, Lucy sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about her fertility doctor.
My Take – Though the world continues to portray pregnancy as blessed experience (well to some extent it is), secretly only couples know about the horrors they face in the nine months leading up to birth of their child.
Hence it does not come as a surprise to see how the topic has been up for exploration for many horror filmmakers who seem excited to showcase a woman’s conscious body altering experience and the blood bath that is child birth, of course the inclusion of some unsavory doing acting as an add on.
In this latest horror A24 project which was picked up by Hulu, co-writers John Lee (also producer and director) and Ilana Glazer (also star and producer) aim to take us deep into the fears and anxieties of carrying a child by rely heavily on psychological horror and mystery, in the form of a modern tribute of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). And while they do manage to create the necessary moody atmosphere to their version, they never seem sure how to go about it.
They throw in some interesting ideas, like the patriarchal control over women’s birth rights and the birthing process, along with some satirical elements which focus on calling out misogyny awaiting women at every turn, especially at work, but for all of the diverse and interesting explorations, they just can’t seem to quite commit to anything in particular, and then tries to mask it with moments of shock.
Sure, the scenes involving the surgical instruments and procedures have a special dread factor in them, but ultimately the film doesn’t work, feeling incomplete with an ending that is not only ridiculous, but also leaves us with many unanswered questions, making this just another unsuccessful imitation of filmmaker Roman Polanski‘s 1968 genre classic.
The story follows Lucy (Ilana Glazer), an advertising exec who’s been trying to get pregnant with Adrian (Justin Theroux), her surgeon husband, for the past two years unsuccessfully. Feeling desperate, Adrian reaches out to his medical school mentor, Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), who is running the best fertility specialist in the city, and whose methods yield outstanding results.
While Lucy becomes immediately pregnant with triplets, two boys and a girl, following his procedures, but keeping in mind her previous miscarriages and present precarious health state Lucy is asked to make the difficult choice of selecting between the boys or the girl through a process of selective reduction.
Though she ends up choosing the girl against recommendations, things begin to change around her, starting with Adrian’s suspicious behavior, and finds herself fixated on Grace Singleton (Zainab Jah), a midwife she read about in a magazine. While her forgetfulness is also causing her friends, including Corgan (Sophia Bush), to accuse her of having mommy brain, Lucy is convinced that Dr. Hindle and Dawn (Gretchen Mol), the facility’s creepy nurse, are up to something.
The film actually starts off promising as it reflects on familiar topics such as infertility, and mommy-culture, it then proceeds to play out exactly how one would expect it to, with everyone around the protagonist being untrustworthy. It just goes on presenting ideas and stories than it could ever come close to exploring in a substantial way.
The biggest problem with the film is that it never finds its footing. The film wants to address misogyny and how women, especially pregnant women, are still very much at the whims of men. But the writers don’t trust the audience enough to understand that, so they hammer the point home with an obnoxious sermon complete with visual aids and more really on-the-nose speeches and visuals. Even dream sequences are synced into real situations and key scenarios are left unexplained, and those that are explained aren’t done subtly.
There’s something to be said about women’s intuition and the fact she should have more say in what her body is telling her, but the film fails to depict that in a meaningful way. As for the actual horror elements, there are none. And then there’s the final act, where everything falls apart.
It adds sequences that are bloody, surreal, disturbing and action packed, making it seem like you suddenly switched to another film. While the mishmash of tones is one of the major problems of the film, but what it does to Lucy and leaves us with is just bizarre. There are moments where you can almost see what could have been, the better film that exists somewhere within the film we got.
If there is one thing that goes in its favor, it’s the cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski (Midsommar, Hereditary), who gives the film his signature gloss of dread though moody, pitch-black shots that can often appear as an inky void of little narrative value.
Performance wise, Ilana Glazer does her best to give a strong dramatic performance. For an actress who is better known for her comedy chops, she is compelling in this film, with most of the scenes hinging on her facial expressions and reactions. Pierce Brosnan is terrific as usual, and oozes his menace with his voice and peer looks.
Justin Theroux doesn’t get much to do here, other than give us some mysterious vibes. Gretchen Mol is deliciously sinister. While in other roles, Sophia Bush, Zainab Jah and Josh Hamilton are alright. On the whole, ‘False Positive’ is a profoundly disappointing horror owing to its meandering script.
Directed – John Lee
Rated – R
Run Time – 92 minutes