birth/rebirth | laura moss | bredan j. o'brien | marin ireland | judy reyes | breeda wool | mad scientist | medical | thriller | united states | monique gabriela curnen | lachanze | a.j. lister | erica sweany | rachel zeiger-haag | kathleen mary carthy | bryant carroll
Director: Laura Moss
Writers: Laura Moss and Brendan J. O’Brien
Starring: Marin Ireland, Judy Reyes and Breeda Wool
This was a movie that I heard buzz about from the festival circuit. I thought earlier in the year that it was streaming and when I searched for it, realized that it wasn’t available. It was one then that I put on a list to check out if it got released. I did get to see this at the Gateway Film Center, so I was excited there. I’ve also now given it a rewatch since it has hit Shudder as well.
Synopsis: a morgue technician successfully re-animates the body of a little girl, but to keep her breathing, she will need to harvest biological materials. When the girl’s mother, a nurse, discovers her baby alive, they enter a deal that forces them both down a dark path of no return.
Now I will admit, I did alter the synopsis a bit. There is a spoiler that I’m not sure I want to reveal here. I’ll start by introducing one half of the team from the synopsis. There is Celie (Judy Reyes). She is a nurse that works in OB from what I’m gathering. We see the stress her job puts on her when she is napping on the floor. She is woken up by her friend, Rita (Monique Gabriela Curnen). Together, they go to the daycare to pick up Celie’s daughter Lila (A.J. Lister). They live together in an apartment.
The other is a doctor named Rose (Marin Ireland). I didn’t realize that she worked in the morgue, but that makes sense now. She is also a pathologist. Part of her position is to prep bodies for organ donation. Not everything she does there is ethical. She is also cold and see that toward her co-worker, Scott (Grant Harrison). She lives in an apartment of her own with a pig named Muriel. We see Rose go to a bar where she masturbates a man and collects his specimen with a pump used for breast milk.
These two have a cross-over when Celie oversleeps and her daughter wakes up not feeling well. She takes her daughter to a neighbor. This day doesn’t go her way from there. Her little girl is upset with her. Celie drops her phone in the toilet. It gets even darker when she gets home and can’t find them. There’s a note that they went to the hospital. Celie gets the most devastating news, her daughter passed away from bacterial meningitis. She goes down to the morgue to see her, but she is turned away by Rose, claiming the body went to the medical examiners. She must wait until Monday to go there and when she does, her nightmare gets worse when they don’t have her.
Celie won’t stop though. She learns the dark secret that Rose is hiding. It gives her hope when she sees that her daughter is once again breathing. Given a second chance, she joins this doctor in trying to restore the life to Lila that she once had.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the story. Where I want to start with my breakdown is that I heard a bit more about this movie than what I relayed in my opening section. A friend asked if I was going to see this and she said that it looked like a Frankenstein story. She isn’t completely wrong there. That is a service level way to look at this. We have Rose trying to ‘cure’ death. She isn’t piecing together a body for her experiments though. Through her tests, she can revive Lila and keep her alive. It takes treatments and time for the success that Celie is hoping for.
Now I’m going to share something personal here. If you follow my podcast or reviews, then you most likely know. My wife, Jaime, was admitted to the hospital two months early when pregnant with our daughter. She gave birth less than a week later. This movie was triggering for me and I was on the verge of tears relieving aspects of that while watching this movie. I even shared this story with a fellow theater goer who had to step out and was looking to be filled in on what he missed. This could be triggering for others. It deals with heavy subject matter. What goes into creating this serum is one. I’ll allude to the fact that it is stem cells or something along those lines. What this duo needs to do for genetic material made me anxious. It is hard for me to fault Celie when I put myself in her shoes. Rose to a lesser degree. I only say this in the idea that if she succeeds, it could change things dramatically in how we treat patients.
Then to go back to Celie, what I mean there is that as a parent I do wonder how far I would go to keep my daughter alive. It would be dark places. When she sees the chance to get her little girl back, she is willing to suspend her morals. I believe that. Where it went in the end was another place that had me near tears. I can understand it and it still makes me feel bad. I’ll be honest, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. It is due to the baggage I’m bringing, but for it to make me go through the things that I did, I’m there for it.
I don’t know if it would work as well as it did without good acting. Our two leads are great in Ireland and Reyes. I like that they come from different ends of the spectrum. Ireland looks at everything clinically. She doesn’t have good bedside manners and it is fitting for where she works. Reyes on the other hand is bubbly enough and disarms people with her charm. I loved seeing their interactions. We also see that even different people can come together for common ground. I liked seeing Breeda Wool here. She was in an independent movie called Ultrasound and I thought she turns in another solid performance here. This is much less than an expecting mother who shows up later. Her ordeal though pulled at my heartstrings. I’d say that Lister was solid as the daughter here. What she does for this experiment fits. Other than that, Curnen, LaChanze, Richard Gallagher, Grant Harrison and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
All that is left then is filmmaking. I thought the cinematography was good. This is shot well. They do good things with camera angles and what not. There is an artistic flair without going over the top. The effects were also good. They look realistic and I think with having this set in the medical profession, that works. It grossed me out with things that they did there. Other than that, I thought the soundtrack fit what was needed as well. I noticed it more this second time around and there is not only an eerie vibe to it. There also seems to be messages in it that fit what we see on the screen and I appreciated that.
In conclusion, this movie was challenging for me in the best way possible. I’ll acknowledge that I’m probably overrating this for how it made me feel with personal things that I’ve gone through. Despite that, we have challenging subject matter here. This is almost a ‘Frankenstein’ story but done differently. The acting is good, being led by Ireland and Reyes. I’d say this is well-made with the effects being the strongest part there, followed by the cinematography. Again, not everyone is going to like this as much as I did. This was in my top spot after that first watch. I think this held steady and will be near the top of my end of year list.
My Rating: 9 out of 10