Casa de los Babys (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/10/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Enjoyable drama enlivened by a decent script and a terrific ensemble cast.

A new film by John Sayles is always something to look forward to, even if sometimes they don’t always work out – this, after all, is the writer-director behind Lone Star, Matewan, Eight Men Out and the under-rated City of Hope, to name just four. His films tend to have highly literate, intelligent scripts and, lately, to feature top-notch ensemble casts. His latest film, Casa de los Babys is no exception and the result is his best film since Lone Star. Unnamed Border Town

Set in an unnamed town south of the border (though shot entirely in Acapulco), the film stars Marcia Gay Harden, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Susan Lynch, Lily Taylor, Mary Steenburgen and Daryl Hannah as a group of women staying at an adoption centre, waiting for the paperwork to clear so that they can take home a new-born baby. There is no outright star and no real plot, as such, though each character is given a chance to shine.

In addition, Sayles lets us get to know some of the other characters in the town, such as the staff at the clinic (including a hilarious Rita Moreno), a street kid, a local Romeo, a young girl whose mother is forcing her to give up her as-yet-unborn baby, an unemployed man and one of the chambermaids at the hotel. Again, there’s no real plot but by the end of the film you genuinely care about all the characters and feel as if you know them well.

Great Character Interplay

The cast are uniformly excellent, with the stand-out performances belonging to Marcia Gay Harden (as Nan, a possible sociopath) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary), who gives an extremely sweet, almost naïve performance. That said, the two most moving scenes are between Daryl Hannah and Gyllenhaal (Hannah talking about the babies she has miscarried) and Susan Lynch and the Spanish-speaking chambermaid (both women exchange heartfelt stories, though neither understands what they’ve been told).

There are several good scenes, as well as a lot of humour in the film – for example, Taylor dismisses a would-be suitor with “Sorry Raymondo, I’ve got socks older than you”. The relationships between them are also interesting – this is no Calendar Girls-style ‘all in this together’-style bonding session – with both Taylor and Harden being entertainingly bitchy about each other and the others trying to remain neutral.

In short, this is definitely worth seeing for its fine ensemble cast and well-written characters, but as a whole it seems to lack dramatic weight and it suffers from a slightly unsatisfactory ending.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 19:48

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