Prevenge SXSW Movie Review
Film is reviewed from the 2017 SXSW Film Festival screening
We see Ruth (Alice Lowe) sitting on a bench with a stunned look on her face. Rock climbing equipment is lined up behind her. As she sits on the bench, we cut to a shoreline with waves crashing against the rocks. We get glimpses of blood and brain matter on the rocks, a climbing rope that has been cut and left dangling against the side of a cliff and Ruth sitting alone, not saying a word.
We cut to Ruth taking public transportation downtown, looking about 4 to 5 months pregnant. She is dressed the way a businesswoman does, professionally and put together. We see her enter an exotic reptile and insects store. She is greeted by the store owner for her tour of what’s for sale. She tells him that she wants to buy her eight-year-old son a “special birthday” gift. Everything that the owner says, while on the surface seems innocent, there is also a layer of sleaze that undercuts the situation. He is defiantly hitting on Ruth, even though she is obviously pregnant. Ruth seems not to notice, more interested in the animals in the terrariums. When she insists to the owner that she wants to get her son something special, he offers to show her his private collection. They head to the back of the shop, and behind a curtain, they go. The owner bends down to retrieve a creature from a cage in the private storage area. When Ruth asks if the creature is dangerous, the owner says “definitely” with a sense of glee in his voice. Just at that moment, Ruth takes a knife and slices the owner’s neck open with one quick movement. The man quickly bleeds out in front of Ruth. Ruth stares at the man, tells him he is disgusting and then bends down and kisses the man on the forehead.
As she walks out of the store, we hear a small child talking, telling Ruth how disgusting the man was. It is very evident from this first exchange that the voice is coming from the baby in her womb and this baby is in charge of telling her mother what to do and when. This mother/daughter bond is going to be a strange and puzzling path to childbirth.
Writer/director, and lead actress, Alice Lowe brings us a remarkable film that is one part black comedy and one part social commentary on how we perceive the modern views of how a mother is supposed to feel about her unborn child during pregnancy. Lowe has a remarkable ear for dialogue, and her delivery is even better, with great comedic timing. My favorite scenes were between Ruth and her doctor (Jo Hartley). The doctor talks are filled with nonsense each time she sees Ruth, the kind of trivial, banal speech that most mothers would eat up. Ruth has a real problem that the child she has inside of her hates everyone and wants Ruth to kill them. The clueless doctor never figures out how messed up Ruth is, putting all her emotional outbursts on the flighty experiences of a pregnant mother. The scenes play out with great comedic effect with Lowe having the great ability to turn a small line into something magical.
The movie also deals with how society perceives and treats women who are pregnant. Ruth encounters in a job interview, a cold professional businesswoman (Kate Dickie). The businesswoman, seeing that Ruth is pregnant, automatically dismisses her saying “just when you learn where the staplers are, you will go on maternity leave.” As the woman struggles to remain “PC” and not straight out state to Ruth she wouldn’t hire her because she is pregnant, all the time we know that this is just playing right into the unborn child’s hands. As the businesswoman drones on, she has no clue that she just about cuts her own throat in the scene.
We are used to seeing on both the big screen and television the happy pregnant mother, excited to meet her new bundle of joy. With Ruth, we get a woman who is lost and can’t get ahold of the situation she has found herself in. She worries that someone will find out that the baby talks to her and will take her away. At the same time, Ruth also worries what life will be like once the baby is born, will she still control Ruth? Alice Lowe has brought us a remarkable piece of filmmaking that makes you laugh at the absurd situations but also wonder if we take the glowing pregnant woman for granted. My guess is we do. My Take: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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