After the population-collapse anxieties of Children of Men, all the unwanted-pregnancy movies of 2007 and a slew of apocalyptic disaster films, is Hollywood moving toward a posterity state of mind?
Babies are everywhere this year, it seems. Babies is the name of a Focus Features documentary, opening on Mother’s Day weekend, about the first year in the lives of four babies from different corners of the world. Also opening that weekend, Rodrigo García’s Mother and Child tells three overlapping stories of women and adoption, including a mother seeking to adopt a baby born during the course of the film.
Then there’s a problematic pair of romantic comedies, The Back-up Plan and The Switch, that turn on that most unromantic method of conception, artificial insemination—in both cases gone wrong, appropriately enough. (Ironically, both films have undergone name switches: The Switch originally bore the more graphic title The Baster, and The Back-up Plan was originally planned as Plan B, unfortunately echoing a brand of “emergency contraception,” i.e., morning-after abortifacient.)
More baby connections in upcoming films are noted by Paul Bond in Hollywood Reporter. Currently set for December are Due Date, starring Iron Man hero Robert Downey Jr. as an expectant dad trying to hitchhike home in time for the big day, and Life as We Know It, a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as otherwise unconnected godparents who unexpectedly become foster parents when tragedy befalls the actual parents of their goddaughter. (Yes, you can have a romantic comedy that starts with a tragic accident; see Return to Me.) Oh, and there’s a baby on the way in the coming sequel to Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers.
Even in 2007, there was a latent pro-life vibe running through that year’s streak of unwanted-pregnancy movies: Juno, Bella, Waitress, Knocked Up (starring Life as We Know It‘s Heigl) and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. This year, it seems, wanted babies may be back—even if the babies in The Back-up Plan and The Switch are wanted by single mothers without even a baby-daddy, and the baby in Life as We Know It was wanted by the real parents rather than the foster/godparents. The Hollywood Reporter piece suggests that perhaps current economic and global crises have something to do with it: “During hard times, family becomes even more important,” Life as We Know It executive producer Denise Di Novi is quoted as saying. “It’s been proven. Parents spend more time with their children—it’s that nesting instinct.”
While I’ve seen none of these films yet, the one that most intrigues me is Thomas Balmes’s Babies. “Everybody Loves…” is the tagline for a film that takes us to Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo for a year in the lives of four babies. In fact, Babies just might be ahead of Iron Man 2 as my most anticipated release of May (which is saying something for me). While we’re waiting, check out the trailer.
Deacon Steven D. Greydanus is film critic for the National Catholic Register, creator of Decent Films, and a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Newark.
With David DiCerto, he co-hosts the Gabriel Award–winning cable TV show “Reel Faith” for New Evangelization Television. Steven has degrees in media arts and religious studies, and has contributed several entries to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, including “The Church and Film” and a number of filmmaker biographies. He has also written about film for the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy.
He has a BFA in Media Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, an MA in Religious Studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA, and an MA in Theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ. Steven and his wife Suzanne have seven children.