More often than not, pregnancy is compared to a “miracle,” as though the act of conception isn’t part of the biological make-up instilled within the human machine. Defining pregnancy and childbirth as a “miracle” creates undue pressure on the women attempting to conceive or carry to term. As such, a stigma is formed around those who can’t, one which makes them feel less than or shunned by normal society. In his debut feature film, writer/director Josh F. Huber tackles the issues of infertility head-on in the dramedy Making Babies, making sure to retain the humor and heart present in our everyday struggles.
For five years married couple Katie and John Kelly (Eliza Coupe and Steve Howey) have tried to get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Despite personal qualms over needles and what being unsuccesful might mean about them personally, they visit fertility specialist Dr. Remis (Ed Begley Jr.) to start down a path of science-led insemination. As months of attempts yield no results, tensions begin to arise in the Kelly household, raising the question: what are you willing to give to make a baby?
The best thing about Making Babies is the way it humanizes the process of conception. For some, pregnancy as easy as a snap of the fingers. For others, it requires the full might of the scientific community. And these examples are just those who are able to conceive, let’s not forget those who cannot. According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age experience fertility problems. Katie and John fall into this category and the way they struggle, the way they support one another through it, and the way their continued failures weigh on them feels undeniably real. Much of this comes from the way Coupe and Howey play their roles. Neither actor presents their characters as caricatures of people, but as fully-realized individuals. The actors pull in the audience through the small touches, the gentle caresses, and the laughter they inspire in each other as two people embarking are a difficult journey. Through their performances, the actors make Katie and John personable and relatable, presenting individuals we grow to care for.
The second best thing about Making Babies is Huber’s script. At no point does it stoop to pandering, preaching, or exaggeration in any aspect of the Kelly family’s trials. In the opening, Katie and John movie into a home, hinting that they are nearly married. Over the course of a wonderful time-lapse sequence, the audience bears witness to the house’s small transformations as the couple settles into their home and try again and again to conceive. Better than a montage, the time-lapse lets the audience observe, in near-real time, Katie’s test-taking, the countless books which pile up on free spaces, and the countless months of ovulation periods marked up on calendars. This opening immediately endears the Kellys to the audience in a way that a montage could not. Of course, the wonderful wordless performances from Coupe and Howey certainly assist with cultivating a connection to the audience, as well. But the way Huber structures this opening lets you know that everything coming after will be as equally open by presenting the losses and the victories in equal measure, without pretention or ceremony. This is particularly important with the support characters – Katie’s religious mom Bird (Glenne Headly), John’s brother Gordon (Bob Stephenson), Gordon’s wife (their sister-in-law) Maria (Elizabeth Rodriguez), fertility doctor (Begley Jr.), and quantum healer Caesar (Jon Daly) – who add color to aspects of the journey, but never overtake the spotlight. A dramedy like this often relies on the supporting cast to lighten things up with wacky characters or extreme behavior, yet Huber applies a more restrained approach, striving to keep the focus on character work and not outlandish exploits or actions. Even when things lean more into exaggerated situational humor for the sake of the story, it’s never so large or loud to feel unnatural.
Considering the number of individuals around the world for whom pregnancy is a difficult proposition, Making Babies is exactly the film that is needed for people to feel less alone. While it may not break any barriers in the way the world addresses fertility or infertility, Making Babies frequently feels like a salve for an aching wound that thoughts and prayers cannot heal. Society at large doesn’t see the problem with asking strangers about their birth plans or attempting to control who does what with a woman’s body. In its own way, Making Babies confronts this, presenting conception as something which is not so easy for many, creating great hope and deep pain in the process. Through the laughter and the tears, Josh Huber’s film offers an opportunity for audiences to reconsider how they talk to their friends and family about pregnancy, and maybe, just maybe, help the ones feeling forsaken by their own bodies – men and women – feel seen and heard. Let’s normalize that over society’s presumption that wanting a child equates to having one. For once, let’s talk about sex honestly and openly.
No special features available at the time of review.
Available on VOD and digital beginning June 28th, 2019.
For more information on the film and where to watch, head to the official Making Babies website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.