Once main character Zoe breaks the news to her partner Tim that she is pregnant, she voices a sentiment that points the whole of Curtis Vowell’s film on its way – “I wanna have a baby, I just don’t wanna turn into a mum.” Feelings of powerlessness, self and ambition all fuel the emotional heart of Baby Done, a poignant but light-hearted look at the identity crisis that stems from having a child.
Set and filmed in New Zealand, Zoe (Rose Matafeo) is a wannabe adventurer and an accomplished tree climber, aiming for the world championships in Vancouver. However, much to her shock and the surprise of her partner Tim (Matthew Lewis), she discovers that she is pregnant. The pair start off on something of a caper to tick things off their prenatal bucket list so that they may feel like they have lived their lives, but the pregnancy becomes a source of argument for a couple who until now have been thick as thieves.
The basics of the story are far from original, but Vowell carries the film through with a gentleness that persists even in moments of heightened conflict. Zoe and Tim’s status as an atypical couple is made very clear from the offset, yet the problems that they then both encounter will likely feel relatable to many prospective parents. This central pairing is the reason why the film works like it does: Matafeo and Lewis are both terrific, the former in particular stealing the limelight with an unassuming performance rife with expressiveness and drama.
Sophie Henderson’s script can at times feel a little episodic, moving from one humorous scenario to the next, but this settles down once the weight of the situation begins to bear more heavily on the two characters. If anything, these moments are handled more deftly than the comedy which, though always present, only offers the occasional big laugh (when they do come though, they are sensationally funny). The humour doesn’t always fit well amidst the more vulnerable, heartfelt moments – not like you would expect from Taika Waititi, for instance. Nevertheless, Baby Done hits hard when it needs to and leaves room for comedy on the side, resulting in a story that is both easy to watch and consequential.
Baby Done’s saving grace is that it manages to make you care about the characters even when they feel squarely in the wrong – like Zoe’s best friend who freaks out when she learns about the pregnancy, though the circumstances under which she finds out are a little strange – or just those characters who feel off. Case in point; Preggophile Brian (actual name), who in a short space of time manages to elicit some of the strongest reactions, be they disgust, surprise or straight-up laughter. The film’s tender qualities and the time it spends on the small details means that it humanises every character in the film. Nobody feels surplus to the story’s needs.
Tonally the film could be stronger, but Baby Done is an easily enjoyed, heartfelt film about the fear of losing who you are and rejoicing in what makes you the person you want to be. Prospective motherhood takes centre stage in this journey, brought to life by Matafeo’s wonderful performance.
Baby Done is out now.