Early on in Curtis Vowell’s latest comedy, Zoe (Rose Matafeo) and her long-term partner Tim (Matthew Lewis) are the last child-free people at a mutual friend’s baby shower. The pair of arborists—Rose with her sights on national and international tree climbing competitions (the only film to memory to feature such an ambition and occupation)—mock the deep uncoolness of their friends and revel in their comparative freedom. But Zoe’s taken a pregnancy test shortly before, and it came back positive. The truth comes out in a cringe yet delightful sequence that has the stamp of executive producer Taika Waititi all over it. Now, the pair must figure out their new lives without losing an ounce of their free-spiritedness—as Zoe says, “I don’t want us to become dicks.”
Baby Done puts a fresh spin on the pregnancy rom-com by focusing on the lives and passions of the parents-to-be while not losing sight of the weight of changes that are necessary for a happy, healthy future family. Matafeo, known for her stand-up appearances, brings deadpan delivery to Zoe’s carefree initial assessment of her situation before she launches herself straight back into climbing trees and begging for international travel permissions. By contrast, Lewis’ laid-back Tim starts out more emotional about their situation (his habit of crying every time Zoe cries is a hilarious touch that poignantly emphasises the mutuality of this long-lived relationship).
Their separate and entwined journeys of self-discovery—often through the most outrageous scenarios undercut with a sweet sincere love for the tantrum-prone parents—flesh them out as characters outside their future roles as mother and father. Sophie Harrison’s script finds humour and humanity in the situations without having to tie everything back to the baby on the way. Also refreshing is the treatment of an unexpected yet wanted pregnancy; to the committed Zoe and Tim, the baby is a desirable thing; their new familial status and its perceived limitations are the stressors to be explored, run away from, and adapted to suit their individual needs. The only sticking point is the film’s second-act relationship wobbles, which feels a rote and unenthusiastic step towards the genre finale viewers expect and love.
The film pokes fun at the differing expectations on new mums and new fathers; while Zoe freaks out about becoming ‘a mum’ in response to the societally expected transformation that she sees her pregnant friends undergo, Tim gets a two-sentence talk on the expectations of fathers from his quasi-father-in-law, over some tools in the back of the truck. On this theme, Baby Done subtly refutes the idea that new parents must fit the expected mould of maturity or stability in order to be respected; while never denying the responsibility that Zoe and Tim are willingly accepting, this is never conveyed to be at odds with their whimsy and arboreal career ambitions (except, of course, in the most farcical ways). When Zoe’s friend accuses her of being “a baby having a baby,” it feels a misguided barb—and one that Zoe will refute in time, after the credits roll.
“House, Baby, Done” Zoe says with some disgust, surrounded by crooning parents and raging toddlers and seeing no place for herself. Baby Done, however, posits that Zoe’s and Tim’s parental journey does not have to be so clean cut and final. As perceptions of what families and parenthood should be are torn down in today’s changing social landscape, the film provides a fun, refreshing look at one positive test.
Baby Done is released on VOD in the UK on January 22nd
by Carmen Paddock
Carmen is an American living in Scotland. She holds a Masters in International Film Business from the University of Exeter / London Film School, and while now working in technology she keeps her love of film alive through overenthusiastic writing and an unhealthy amount of time spent at the cinema. Favourite films include West Side Story, 10 Things I Hate About You, Ever After, and Thor: Ragnarok. Follow her on Twitter @CarmenChloie