Director Jeremy Hersh’s striking, emotive and perfect film “The Surrogate” underscores the pressures of parenting and the hopeful raising of children. It is as full of meaning, as it is anxious. Punchy, direct and beautifully unsentimental, it is both provocative and pensive. The film has all of the claustrophobic slow build of a horror story.
Idealistic graphic designer Jess (Jasmine Batchelor) agrees to be a surrogate for same sex parents, Josh (Chris Perfetti) and Aaron (Sullivan Jones). Everyone is thrilled. Jess is Josh’s best friend and she is over the moon. Then during a checkup, Jess learns that the fetus will have an extra chromosome which means Down Syndrome.
Josh and Aaron are blindsided but vow to keep a stiff upper lip, loving the child.
Then the couple expresses doubt. The film wonderfully illustrates Jess’s progression from feelings of being a perfectionist at work, to feeling aimless and then full of purpose.
Gradually we see Jess go from a caring and conscientious surrogate to an almost obsessive mother-to-be as she befriends a somewhat weary and depressed mother Bridget (Brooke Bloom) and the charming Leon (Leon Lewis).
No one appears as they seem from first glance, not even Jess’s mother and father (Tonya Pinkins and Leon Addison Brown) and it seems as if Jess must steel herself against an ever increasing self-centered horde. This includes the empathetic, yet resolutely pro-life Sarah (Catherine Curtin) and even Jess’s persistent boyfriend, Nate (Brandon Michael Hall).
Although the opinionated drama is stifling to Jess, not at any time are the episodes cartoonish or unreal. We are a spectator to Jess’s plight but we are by no means removed. We can only look on with expectation, hope, joy and worry.
“The Surrogate” is as perfect a film as you will ever see with a momentum that never lets up. Rich in feeling, punchy and surprising. This is a difficult ethical drama with no easy answers.
This film is part of the Tropic’s Virtual Cinematheque Series. Get tickets here and support the Tropic!
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