by Rachel Willis
Becoming a new mother is a joy. The sleepless nights, constant crying, bleeding heavily from your vagina for weeks, having a new human you’ve been entrusted to keep alive in your house.
Did I say joy? I meant horror show.
Writer/director Bess Wohl has turned new parenthood, particularly motherhood, into a tense, sometimes funny, horror movie with Baby Ruby.
New parents Jo and Spencer (Noémie Merlant and Kit Harington) have a lot to be thankful for when they bring new daughter Ruby home. Jo is a very successful blogger who is eager to prove her mettle as a new mom.
However, problems start right away. It’s unclear, to both Jo and the audience, if certain horrific events are real or dreams. Jo begins losing time. Ruby never stops crying.
There’s a certain amount of confusion and plenty of red herrings peppered through the film. Though it seems obvious what plagues Jo, the filmmakers want you off-balance. Is husband, Spencer, supportive – or is that smile vaguely sinister? Is someone whispering to Ruby through the baby monitor? Is Ruby angry with Jo?
These are the things that rattle Jo’s confidence. On top of her struggles with Ruby, all the other new moms make it look easy. Jo is introduced to several new moms at a local café. They’re all perfectly coifed in summer dresses, and their babies must sleep long enough for them to do their makeup. In comparison, Jo feels even more like a failure.
There’s a certain subtle humor to the film, even as it works to rachet up the tension.
Because of the desire to keep the audience guessing, there are a few moments when it feels like Wohl is trying too hard to scare you. Some of the horror works well, some segments are too heavy-handed. There is a dog and a dog-related low blow.
No offense to the parents of the babies playing Ruby, but they’re perfectly cast as they’re both adorable and a little creepy. Part of you wants to reach out and pick her up, while the other part is a bit put off by that weird little face.
The film nails several aspects of what makes being a new parent feel like a nightmare. It’s not surprising that many parents look back at those early days with hindsight and laugh. Otherwise, we might all feel like we’ve lived through a horror movie.