Starring: Lambert Wilson, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Pascal Elbe
Director: Vincent Garenq
Category: IIB (French and Spanish)
In France, Vincent Garenq's directorial debut is called Comme Les Autres: translating as 'Like the Others', it refers to the film's gay protagonist's wish to sire a child like all the straight couples he knows.
Taken literally, however, its English title can also be used to describe the film itself. Deftly done with engaging performances from its cast, Baby Love glides effortlessly but mundanely towards a feel-good denouement, offering scant surprises but an immense sense of deja vu: the film even begins with two of the most common traits of contemporary mainstream French cinema - Parisian streetscapes and the premise of a festive family dinner.
Yet Baby Love could have offered so much more. Its banal English title only reveals how Garenq reduced the premise to the one-note struggle of paediatrician Manu to attain fatherhood. The problem of gay adoption - which is not allowed in France - is briefly touched on in the first reel, as Manu attempts (and fails) to pass himself off as a single, straight man to a social services officer.
Garenq also passed over the opportunity to probe into the conundrum faced by disfranchised individuals such as Fina (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), an Argentinean woman who agrees to trade her womb for a sham marriage with Manu and, thus, a French passport.
Instead, the inevitable happens. The deal between Manu and Fina gets tricky as love rears its head (at least for one of them); then cue the long-expected re-entrance of Philippe (Pascale Elbe, above right with Wilson and Ayala), the lawyer Manu had ditched because of his unwillingness to become a parent, and a bizarre love triangle emerges. The ending conveniently disposes of the emotional entanglement among the trio and the baby, and leaves everyone happy with their lot, with many questions - from hard-edged ones about family values and gay rights, to Philippe's abrupt transformation from party-lover to devoted parent - left unaddressed.
In presenting 90 minutes of unchallenging melodrama, Baby Love ends up as banal as both its French and English titles suggest.
Baby Love opens today