Antenatal Cinema: Films For Parents-To-Be
I have separated them into five sections, based around the overall perspective the film offers on the topic of childbearing. So for all the parents-to-be out there, you will realise, we are not alone…
A few months back, I found out the wonderful news that I am going to be a father. Over recent weeks I have found that my curiosity to re-visit pregnancy based films has grown. It has become very apparent to me that this is a topic rife for discovery, but generally falls into the same sort of brackets – fear of what will come. After watching and hearing my wife go through endless weeks of morning / all day sickness, I can understand why most film-makers pick up on the scary side of the gestation period. But there are also so many wonderful parts of the process. After paying a bit of attention, and seeing mine and my wife’s own experiences reflected on celluloid, I have noticed that despite their similarities, there are some clear divides within the overall ‘experiences’ of the Hollywood birthing process.
Below is a collection of films which all revolve around pregnancy. The separations are not reflective of the film’s quality, nor does their inclusion in the list necessarily qualify them as a “worth while” viewing (the super lame ones have been identified as so). I have separated them into five sections, based around the overall perspective the film offers on the topic of childbearing. So for all the parents-to-be out there, you will realise, we are not alone…
“I can’t wait!”
- Films for positive parents
Baby Mama (2008)
Odd and slightly out-of-whack, Baby Mama is the story of an infertile business woman Kate (Tina Fey), and the hilarity that ensues when she takes in a very unhinged and heavily pregnant Angie (Amy Poehler) – on a promise that Kate can keep the baby when it is born. Not the worse film ever made, but easily one of the least memorable. There is a neat underlying message about the commitment having a baby really is, and Kate’s longing to be a parent is a tragically raw subject matter. But most of the film is played for laughs, and the ultimate pay off will have you shopping for a pram in no time.
He had won every conceivable battle of the past, present and future. He had defeated logic, reason and physics. So it made sense that Arnie would eventually move on to do battle with biology and Mother Nature. For those that don’t know, Junior is about a scientist, Alex Hesse, who develops an anti-rejection serum to help prevent miscarriages. When his research is threatened by a funding drought, Alex makes a desperate attempt to test the serum, and impregnates himself. The unofficial sequel to Twins, and the third collaboration between director Ivan Reitman and mega star Arnold Schwarzenegger, Junior has also been one of those critically hated projects in the filmography of both men. Similar in message to Baby Mamma, Junior is all about good people who just want to be parents. The ethics of the experiment are founded in strong morals (helping the infertile), and Danny DeVito’s Larry is a key parallel as the man who takes on a child not his own. Love it or hate it, nothing is more hysterical than seeing The Terminator trussed up in a wig and dress, looking like Fatima Whitbread.
Three Men and a Baby (1987)
A true classic, potentially the inspiration behind The Hangover. Sam from Cheers, Magnum P.I and Mahoney left to look after a 9-month-old baby, under the watchful direction of Spock. Based on the French film 3 hommes et un couffin, this is one of those films which makes parenting look like a real blast. Yes, there is the initial shock which all three men go through, but the relationship they build with Mary is nothing short of beautiful. In fact, the dynamic is so endearing that the eventual arrival of Mary’s mother Sylvia (Nancy Travis), is actually quite deflating. Her thinly veiled hints of poncing a free New York apartment are outright aggravating, and make you want to jab her with a stick. It’s the upbringing-you-kind-of-wish-you-had, and there is no doubt that having seen this film, most people have or will at some point sing ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ to a restless bambino.
NOTE: Even as a grown up, although we know ‘that ghost’ is clearly a Ted Danson cut-out; it’s still fun to pretend that it isn’t.
“Am I ready?”
- Films for accidental parents
Knocked Up (2007)
Some have accused Judd Apatow’s breakthrough comedy of being inappropriate in its tone. But in all honesty, nothing says ‘babies’ more than potheads, foul mouthed slackers and pink eye, right? There is of course a healthy portion of salt to be pinched when watching Knocked Up. But beneath the film’s dressing of bro-mance and drug humour, beats a gracious and tender heart. If anyone needs to understand Apatow’s perspective on parenthood, then they need look no further than the closing credits; a literal montage of baby pictures and celebrations of paternity. The key message of Knocked Up is – “life sometimes throws us a curve ball, but even our biggest mistakes can become our greatest blessings.” A pertinent message for illegitimate parents the world over.
Look Who’s Talking (1989)
What would it be like to give birth to John McClane? Well let’s ask Kirstie Alley. Before she had eaten her career, Alley imitated fellow Cheers co-star Ted Danson and branched out to the ‘baby boom’ (pun intended) of late 80’s cinema. Something of a miniature career revival for John Travolta, Look Who’s Talking became that film which many kids grew up watching…which is kind of perverse. There are some classic moments, and none more so than that ‘Walking on Sunshine’ dance. In a time when families are becoming increasingly disjointed and fractured, Look Who’s Talking is an empowering message for single parents the world over.
Shrek the Third (2007)
It’s the third instalment no one wanted, but they made it all the same. Shrek the Third is something to do with Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and King Arthur (Justin Timberlake), but from Shrek’s (Mike Myers) perspective it’s about babies. One particular scene where Shrek dreams about multiple babies is something I would imagine many fearful parents would have. The film becomes a focus on accepting responsibility and learning to embrace the unexpected, kind of like Knocked Up for 6-year-olds. In hindsight, any and all lessons learnt from number 3 are null and void; because apparently Shrek needed to learn the same lessons all over again in Shrek Forever After…or maybe it just suited the needs of Dreamworks’ stock holdings.
“Will I be a good parent?”
- Films for uneasy parents
Children of Men (2006)
What if your baby was potentially the last baby to ever be born. That is the question that Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of the P.D James book asks. Many have celebrated this film, and the cinematography has been lauded with praise, but is it any cop? Well personally, I found it to be bleak and emotionless drool. But as an eventual parent it suddenly takes on new meaning. Children of Men presents the communal idea that a child can be loved by whomever it means something to. An interesting perspective presents itself, and that is, if one can learn to love another child as their own, to approach the beauty of its being, then they are more than ready and capable to become a parent.
Mixed Nuts (1994)
Am I cheating here? It depends on your criteria. Mixed Nuts is, in a manner of speaking, a Christmas movie. But at the heart of the story is a heavily pregnant Grace (Juliette Lewis) and her brainache boyfriend Felix (Anthony LaPaglia). There are a plethora of ideas explored within the film; identity, loss, belonging, love. But at the core of the film is a theory that people need family. Grace and Felix are part of a very stormy relationship, and probably should in no way be bringing another life into this world. In reality, parents such as these would probably end up forgetting where they put the baby or eventually abandoning it at a church doorway. Director Nora Ephron presents the idea that people can learn to focus on what is important, and purpose of action is enough to unite priorities. So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are an egomaniac, tortured romantic, transvestite, wench, oddball, loner, washout or loser – we all have the ability to create a happy home.
Away We Go (2009)
Penned by hipster writer Dave Eggers, Away We Go is the fifth instalment in Sam Mendes’ ‘American Saga’. It plots the journey of parents-to-be Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), as they travel around theUnited States in an effort to find the perfect spot to raise their baby. Using archetypal paternal characters, Mendes draws us through an exploration of what it is that makes a father or mother. Burt andVerona are the voice of those who want only the best for their child. Their endeavour to find a model of behaviour and a place to settle is a striking metaphor for the trepidation of parenthood. Ultimately, we are left with a relatively potent thought – “just love each other, and it will be alright.” Away We Go is hilarious, touching and truly wonderful; ear mark as a Shoe Box Classic.
“I’m not ready!”
- Films for reluctant parents
Juno is considered by most to be a modern classic, but personally I could easily take it or leave it. The voice of a generation, apparently, Juno is all about teens that get preggers, and then the resulting decisions that follow. Jennifer Garner plays the sympathetic middle class woman seeking new purpose in a motherhood she cannot have. Jason Bateman is himself with a bit of jerk mixed in, and Michael Cera is Michael Cera with a bit of Michael Cera mixed in. At its core, Juno does have something to say regarding the unexpected emotional journey of childbearing, but shrouds it in obnoxious behaviour and self congratulatory humour – a hex upon you Ellen Page. Or maybe I am missing the point, that it’s a brilliant film with a flurry of humour and wit.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Possibly the least ‘mumsy’ of pregnant cinema, Rosemary’s Baby can be taken as a metaphor for many topics; body horror, rape conception, meddlesome relatives, illegitimate birth. But there is no denying that Roman Polanski’s adaptation is clearly aimed at those who view childbirth as an ordeal rather than experience. Released just one year before Polanski’s own unborn child was murder ed by a cult (Manson Family), Rosemary’s Baby has all the hallmarks of a film which would put even the most ardent parent off of procreation. From the creepy Castevet’s to the gormless Guy, no one in Rosemary’s life can be trusted or relied upon, and she has to endure the horror of this pregnancy alone. Polanski uses common place factors such as sickness and stomach pangs as a marker for the ‘unusual’ nature of her foetus, which serves only to compound the idea that every part of childbirth is downright scary.
Jenna (Keri Russell) is a sweat-as-sugar waitress in Hicksville, USA. Her abusive and layabout husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) has no idea that Jenna is keeping a secret fund, and plans to run away in the near future. Jenna’s strategy is soon thrown into disarray when she becomes pregnant, and is no longer able to follow the path which she has long dreamed of treading. Waitress is easily one of those films which depict parenthood as a lonely responsibility. Jenna’s view is never in doubt regarding the finite choices before her. She is a victim of her surroundings, and passively submits to ideals and dreams in an effort to ‘get through’ life. As the film develops there are a few feminist principles on display, and Jenna makes certain choices by the film’s finale proving that you ‘don’t need a man’ to be a strong matriarch.
“And I thought morning sickness was bad!”
- Films that are just awful
Son of the Mask (2005)
Son of the Mask is almost impossible to watch all the way through, and an insult to the very concept of storytelling. Bob Hoskins as Odin, Alan Cumming as Loki, Jamie Kennedy as dad to the Mask and directed by the guy who made Cats and Dogs, this was definitely one of those “I need the money” jobs. The only time this film would be functional for anyone, is when social services use it as an identifier for abusive parents who buy it for their kids.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)
That steaming pool of acrid red juice down your shirt is the vomit you will discover after awakening from the coma that is Breaking Dawn – Part 1. Pouting morons, disturbing vampire love and peado werewolves, there might be something here that expectant parents can learn – you just need to decide if it’s really worth it, though.
Who said God and high velocity rounds don’t go together? Well whoever did was right. It works even less when you muddy the water with super sweary demon angel grannies, unusually buff Paul Bettany and some mumbo-jumbo about an unborn baby being the saviour of mankind. The whole thing is pure drivel and is a low point in the career of Bettany. But it does beg the question; why are the Hollywood versions of God and Satan so obsessed with babies?