Good cinematography can’t save this thriller from its flaws.
Our second look at a short film from director Nour Wazzi doesn’t measure up to last week’s offering, Up On the Roof. Baby Mine is a thriller about a missing child, where everyone involved is hiding something from the audience. While it has its moments, it suffers from defects in its acting, scripting, and story that ultimately undermine the film.
Baby Mine (2020)
Distracted by the phone, Sarah (Rachael Stirling) doesn’t notice her young daughter slip out of the house. This allows her estranged husband, Saroush (Alexander Siddig), to snatch the girl. A neighbor with a secret desire for Sarah offers to help her track down the pair after Sarah refuses to go to the police.
Baby Mine stumbles in several key categories. The most glaring I noticed was the poor acting. Rachael Stirling and Alexander Siddig both have impressive films and series under their belts, so it was strange that their performances here felt so off.
Some of that is down to the dialogue, which is bad. There are too many pregnant pauses, characters often talk past each other, and generally feel like the actors don’t know what the other person is going to say next. Added to this is the problem of the audio quality rendering much of the dialogue inaudible.
Besides dialogue and scripting, everyone in this drama feels stiff and halting. I feel this comes down to the film wanting to keep things hidden from the audience, resulting in characters who feel hesitant and inconsistent.
One of the major drivers of tension in Baby Mine is the suspicion that each character is hiding a secret. The problem is that all of their secrets are not executed well.
The daughter, Etti (Grace Taylor) suffers from a mysterious illness that causes her parents to fight. In theory, this should heighten the stakes and create uncertainty about which parent to trust. Since the reality of the situation is readily apparent early on, the reveal falls flat instead.
The neighbor (Alex Ferns) not only has an obvious secret (he has the hots for Sarah) but also a failed secret. The film’s description says he’s prejudiced (a source of drama since Sarah’s husband is Middle Eastern) but we only get one throwaway line in the film to establish that – and the line itself would lead you to think he’s culturally insensitive, not a raging bigot. This is another place where the intention of the filmmaker and the execution of the story don’t match up.
Baby Mine does have strong points. Like Up On the Roof, the cinematography is captivating. Wazzi excels at creating emotional resonance with camera angles and shot selection. Close camera angles cause a claustrophobic feeling of dread, and off-center shots highlight the uncertainty we are meant to feel about the nature of the character’s and their dynamics. The film’s score also does a lot of work towards supporting the mood of the piece.
At the end of the day, Baby Mine wound up disappointing me. Problems with the script and acting, coupled with clunky execution of the story pulled me out of the experience repeatedly. The good parts make me interested in seeing more from Nour Wazzi, but this outing missed its mark.