Making decorations for her own baby shower gives us a partial window into why Jo’s (Noémie Merlant, "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," "Tár") French aesthetic has made her such a successful lifestyle blogger. But the long anticipated act of giving birth itself gives Jo nightmares and the incessant crying that robs her of her sanity after it creates a love/hate relationship with “Baby Ruby.”
Laura's Review: B
After her own experience becoming a mother was not what she expected, writer/director Bess Wohl, an actress and playwright, makes her directorial debut with a psychological thriller about postpartum depression swaddled in the horror genre. Mixing reality with Jo’s afflicted viewpoint keeps us off balance, just as Merlant conveys both love and fear of the infant, the continual contradictions giving the film its tension. But the film’s climactic build resolves too easily, the local mommy tribe that confounds Jo left a mystery.
The happy woman who lives in a modern chalet in a rural setting with her husband Spencer (Kit Harington, HBO's 'Game of Thrones') almost goes into shock in the hospital, a nurse commanding that she cannot leave ‘until she poops,’ another racing after her departure announcing she’s forgotten her placenta which is ‘full of nutrients.’ After birth is a daze of blood, folds of loose flesh and stretch marks, the formerly put together vlogger answering the door to contractors with her baggy undies on display.
And then there is the constant crying, a montage reflecting the repetition of picking the baby up, putting her back down, cleaning spit up, pacing, the image eventually splitting in two, mirror images of a distraught mother. In perhaps the film’s most horrifying image, Jo mistakes the family dog chewing on a bone (hubby’s an artisanal butcher) as it devouring her child. After her only outside connections being her overly ‘helpful’ mother-in-law Doris (Jayne Atkinson, TV's 'House of Cards') and her assistant Caroline (Camila Canó-Flaviá), bewildered by Jo’s lack of posting anything about Ruby after a month, Jo runs into Shelly (Meredith Hagner,HBO Max’s ‘Search Party’), a stranger she’d run into in a baby store before giving birth who’d been overly protective of her child. Suddenly Shelly’s a whole lot friendlier, inviting Jo into her circle of a dozen or so moms whose unseen babies in their prams never make a sound…
Merlant effectively conveys a woman losing her identity in a maelstrom of infantile demands while trying to project the expected societal maternal image. Also good is Hagner, her ricochet from hostility to chipper embrace keeping us off balance. Harrington disappears into the background, Atkinson making more of a mark as his character’s mother with less screen time. The film also features Reed Birney ("Mass," "The Menu") as Dr. Rosenbaum.
Wohl had a great concept for “Baby Ruby,” but can’t quite cross the finish line, repeating ideas that don’t get proper closure. Still, her original take and what does work makes it worthwhile.
Robin's Review: B
Jo (Noemie Merlant) is a successful vlogger with a sizable group of followers. She is about to give birth to her first child and, like any new mom, is excited. Then, the painful birth becomes even more unbearable when the new addition to the family will not stop crying, ever, in “Baby Ruby.”
This, to me, is a true horror tale. There are no “monsters” to speak of, but I have always felt that little babies are really malevolent beings placed on earth to turn reasonable and intelligent adults into blithering idiots. Just sit and watch a parent-baby swim lesson and you will see what I mean. So, when Jo breaks her water and goes into labor, she becomes a victim of her new baby.
I guess that this is a horror movie, but not what you think of as a horror movie. As said, little babies are horrifying to me and Jo shows that strain as Ruby slowly and inexorably pushes the new mom over the edge. Every day, for seemingly 24 hours per, the baby cries, loud and long.
As the endless days progress, we see the chinks in Jo’s previously unbroken emotional armor. The psychological horror of the new mom’s plight is both understandable and believable. If you have ever had a chronic pain – and a baby crying in my ear would be a painful and all engulfing experience – you can understand how it would pound away at your emotions and reasonable thinking.
Noemie Merlant does a fine job in showing her long and slow fall from being a strong, reasonable person to a huddling mass made that way by a 20 pound baby named Ruby.
Magnet Releasing opens “Baby Ruby” in select theaters and on demand on 2/3/23.