the amount of nervousness, fear, and insecurity that many women face with being unpredictable
Pregnancy – not to mention the strange fact that a small,
The separate being in a fluid sac is slowly hatching in you – it’s a miracle
There aren’t dozens of pregnancy horror movies out there every year. Ilana
Glazier “s riff to this genre, “False positive,” of A24 and Hulu,
is born out of the emotional turmoil that often accompanies pregnancy. Tighten
that turmoil with the stress of high-risk conception, and you
have a very strong mix of antenatal anxiety.
“This pregnancy shit is not a joke. It’s really scary, ”says a friend comfortingly at an early turning point in the raunchy, satirical psychological thriller. “But you are not alone.” But what if, as the film asks, your cocoon of social support and perinatal care is an illusion?
Co-written by Glazer and her director John Lee (a filmmaker she worked on “Big city“),” False Positive “is about Lucy (Glazer) and her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux), an aspiring marketing director and wealthy surgeon. While on the surface they may seem like a successful dream couple, Lucy and Adrian have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for the past two years, and constant frustration and concern about their reproductive architecture is coming to a head. While trying to get pregnant naturally, Lucy finally gives in when Adrian calls his friend and mentor, renowned reproductive specialist Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), help.
In the perfect but clinical headquarters of Hindle’s pristine practice, greeted by his loyal and eerily cheerful head nurse (Gretchen Mol), the doctor’s miracle fertility cocktails work in abundance. Lucy will soon be pregnant with triplets, but could face the difficult choice of selective reduction.
In the meantime, however, Lucy is overwhelmed by the whirlwind of all the myriad medical procedures and visits. In her disoriented, vulnerable state, she joins a mom support group and befriends Corgan (Sophia Bush), to whom she confides her growing fears about pregnancy. One of Lucy’s darkest confessions to her new friend is her growing suspicion that there is something sinister hidden behind her superstar doctor’s charming, arrogant smile, and worse, that her husband may be involved in some sort of conspiracy.
Expectant with many ideas around the patriarchal birth industry complex, the gaslighting associated with the myth of a happy, peaceful pregnancy, the sexist condescension in the idea of the “mommy brain”, the inherent misogyny of the professional world with expectant and working mothers and a Peter Pan-like fantasy theme, “False Positive” has a lot on my mind. It doesn’t always work, and it’s a bit slippery, but the film is still fascinating.
When Lucy begins to lose touch with reality and interview her doctor and friends, “False Positive” loses its way, mostly because it never really becomes clear whether Lucy is paranoid, crazy, or really being tricked. Usually this ambiguity is the thrill and fun of psychological horror, but when the protagonist is a rigged pregnant person who is fooled by the patriarchal industry around her and those who delve into her narrative, this uncertainty is a heavier pill.
There’s also an odd subplot at the end with a warm black midwife, Grace Singleton (Zainab Jaha),
which is a more soulful and authentic alternative to the
Sterility of the Dr. Hindle and interventional medicine. But if the Afrocentric
The furnishings in her office are disappearing, we ask Lucy, is it her?
Imposing some “magical negro” stereotypes on both delusional and midwife
she believes she can solve all her problems (“False Positive” knowingly plays along
that idea, but it never plays in favor of Lucy).
And here is the main problem. Much is said about the empowering “birth story,” the narrative a woman tells about the path of her baby’s birth, and much of “false positives” is about Lucy’s agency and trying to control her own narrative. The film wants us to empathize with their plight, and we are more than eager for it. However, in an effort to play with surreality and keep audiences busy, the film often inadvertently robs Lucy by turning her into an unreliable narrator: we don’t know if she is delusional, dreaming, having a nightmare, or real mistreated, or all of the above in the vortex of deception.
Trust and lack of it are a big issue, and the film crescendos into a wild, bloody climax of violence, anger and catharsis: after all, it is a woman who has gassed and suffered to the extreme enough. The climax is fun and crazy, but not necessarily as satisfying as hoped. For all its shortcomings and the inability to end up giving birth, “False Positive” is a compelling take on the misrepresentation of the “glow” of pregnancy. It’s also a promising start for Glazer and Lee. It is hoped that this will be the first in a long line of cinematic descendants to play with genres and deconstruct female social constructs Jordan Peele with horror, social criticism and race. [B-]