Surrogacy between friends can be a risky proposition, and in film it’s rarely portrayed in a positive light. Whilst The Surrogate equally doesn’t portray it as an easy road, it does show a different element to the process, and allows for different voices to weigh in on many dividing issues.
Jeremy Hersh delivers his first feature film with The Surrogate, and you wouldn’t know it. He has a comfortable ease with his subjects and the shots seem completely fluid and natural - so natural I had myself questioning if some parts were played by non actors, as they seem so rooted in reality. Hersh’s handling and direction of the young children within the piece is careful and thoughtful, and Down syndrome is looked at with a gentle touch. The film hovers on the fence with regard to it’s complex subject matter, and whilst Hersh places the audience solely in Jess’ camp, he is careful to not make the father’s (Josh and Aaron) out to be the villains of the piece.
The film follows 29 year old Jess, who decides to be the surrogate for her long time friends Josh and Aaron. When a prenatal test brings back results they weren’t prepared for, Jess tries to help the potential father’s make an informed choice, one that threatens the bonds of their friendship. The film covers a lot of plot in a short time, and seeks to offer a nuanced and balanced examination of a complicated issue with no real right or wrong. Whilst there is a final conclusion and decision, the film tries hard not to take either side which is at times it’s detriment. It’s hard to know how the father’s are feeling, as the film focuses solely on Jess and her emotions regarding the child she is carrying. I couldn’t tell if this was because there simply wasn’t time to go into the complex issue further, or that this was the intention - a distance from all involved so that an audience goer can apply their own thoughts and biases on to the characters and situation.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Jess is well meaning, caring but can’t say no, and can’t let go. We see this in her work but especially in her relationship with Josh and Aaron. She’s almost too good, making everyone around her uncomfortable without realizing, and it’s clear that her moral judgement sometimes comes without a healthy dose of reality. I would have liked to see a lot more development with the two male leads - we get very little insight into their emotions and thoughts about the life changing decision that they will have to make, and instead they are background characters who Jess decides are morally bankrupt. Again, it’s unclear if this is intentional, as by making them somewhat undeveloped, it allows the viewer to easily picture themselves in their position, and pose the question to themselves.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There was a distinct absence of music within the film, with mostly natural diegetic sound filling the frames. Many scenes of awkward silences are punctuated by the uncomfortable dings of forks on plates, or heels on floor, and it only adds to the awkward.
New York has never looked so lovely, hipster and crowded all at the same time. Due to the small budget, the film feels very real, and the real locations add to the authenticity.
The Surrogate tackles multiple complex issues - surrogacy, race, sexuality, disability, wealth. It never went in to enough detail on any one of them for me, however it got me thinking, which I believe which the intent of all involved, and if you’re lucky enough to see it with an audience, it will definitely have you debating the issues afterwards.