Sunday, June 21, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 16

June 6, 2009

Grace (2009) Dir. Paul Solet

Grace was another film from the midnight adrenaline series and first feature from writer/director, Paul Solet, who was at the screening. He talked about his interest in film being cultivated by his camp councilor. Turns out Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) was once a camp councilor and trusted to council children. But anyway, I'm guessing it was the Eli Roth connection that helped bring Jordan Ladd into the project to play the lead, Madeline Matheson, a woman who desperately wants to have a baby.

Madeline and Henry (Stephen Park) appear to have a great life. Madeline has given up work to become a full time wife and mother, but so far all of her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage. Finally she is pregnant again and the couple decides to use a homeopathic birthing clinic and midwife instead of the more common hospital birth. Close to the end of term, the couple are in a traffic accident that ends with loss of both Henry and the unborn child. But Madeline will not allow labor to be induced and carries the dead fetus to team, waiting to have a natural childbirth at Naturebirth. And shortly after Madeline gives birth to the dead baby, her midwife, Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris) find Madeline nursing the baby, Grace.

However, this is not quite the perfect miracle. Grace is not a normal, healthy baby. Madeline notices a smell and flies accumulate around the crib. And Grace has a thirst, not for milk, but blood.

In general the tone of the film is perfect for this tale about unnatural nature of childbirth and motherhood. I mean, just because everyone says nothing is more natural than having a baby, I cannot imagine anything that less natural or more terrifying then having something growing inside for nine months. There is plenty in that probably universal terror to base a film on. But with Grace, Paul Solet was attempting to tell a story about the intense bond between mother and child, a bond so strong that a it is only natural for a mother to kill in order to protect her child, and in the case of Grace, she's willing to kill to feed her child.

Well, if that was the intended subtext, it wasn't a complete success. I saw a different film in Grace that was more about the intense need of some women for a baby. And that this drive is, at some level, unnatural. That's how I read this film. In many ways, this was the same movie as Jan Svankmayer's Little Otik, but with more gore and significantly less horror. But despite not going as far as has been done, it did work, but it was far from the pro-woman movie that the filmmaker seemed to believe that he made. Sadly, many of the female characters were not well developed or particularly interesting, but the worst crime was the attempt at a lesbian plot line that completely depended upon unrealistic stereotypes.

And my question is, why aren't women making horror movies about motherhood? Because perhaps, this material in the hands of a woman could birth a more subtle and interesting film that comes across as more genuine.

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