Casa de los Babys
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Acclaimed filmmaker John Sayles captures six American women at one of the most emotionally charged moments of their liveseach on the verge of adopting a babyin this "compelling" (Chicago Tribune) drama set against the backdrop of a Latin-American town. Featuring an "inspired" (The Miami Herald) all-star cast, this poignant look at fate, maternity and clashing cultures is "as rich in ideas as it is in fine acting" (Los Angeles Daily News).
John Sayles brings observant compassion and calm insight to Casa de los Babys, a fiercely independent film with a peerless ensemble cast. Dispensing with traditional storytelling to focus instead on the turbulent emotions surrounding the adoption of babies by American women in an unnamed South American country (filmed in Acapulco, Mexico), Sayles takes an unobtrusive approach to their dilemmas, listening (and filming) like an understanding friend to these hopeful women, who are either bound or separated by their disparate personalities. Sayles also covers both sides of the adoption equation by including a Latina mother (Vanessa Martinez), certain that her baby will enjoy a better life with adoptive American parents, but still struggling with the anguish of her sacrifice. This isn't on par with Sayles's best work (and reviews were predictably mixed), but there's not a false note anywhere, and the cast (including Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lili Taylor, Susan Lynch and Mary Steenburgen) is uniformly superb. Sayles isn't playing social commentator here, and that's to his credit. Instead, Casa de los Babys is a sensitive film about a sensitive subject, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions. --Jeff Shannon
- Making-of featurette
- "Beyond Borders" documentary
- "On Location with John Sayles" documentary
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The films of Johns Sayles tend to focus less on character development and more on character contrasts, archetypes rather than stereotypes. Less interested in character transformations from A to B, Sayles opts to pick representatives from larger forces at work (or conflict) in society.
The sizable cast frequently woe their lot in life. The childless women wonder "why me", and offer varied perspective on what be the best way to raise a child. They raise age old concerns as to whether a baby is a blank slate, and what they must do ensure they get a child of "good stock". An out of work architect hopes the lottery will change his life around, the young women giving up their children have dreams ranging from being a model to just eking by, and the infants will seemingly randomly be assigned to perspective mothers ranging from the resilient to the personality disordered. Those less fortunate may end up as street urchins. While the women hoping to adopt have idealistic hopes for their child, the hotel owner winces in disappointment at her 30-something son, lacking work skills and perhaps over-romanticizing his revolutionary anti-capitalist ideals. Hopefully Sayles will continue to create these films of small budget that are anything but little.
In the opening scene of the movie we see what looks like a hospital with children and a nurse taking care of one of them. The next image we see is of small children sleeping in a carboard box being chased away by a man who claims the box is his. And finally we meet the women how are waiting for a baby. When you see all three scenes played out together it has quite an impact. First we have helpless children who are being taken care of, then we see children who have no one, and women who want to take care of children but our stuck in red tape. Sayles keeps shuffling these images around in our heads until the point where I started to think the movie's supports the actions taken by these women. Because, if these women don't take these children, what kind of life is in store for them anyway?
"Casa de los Babys" though tries to present both sides of the issue. We see the reaction some people have to the idea of Americans coming over and taking their children. One man asks, how would they (Americans) feel if we came over and took their children. And then we see small chidlren playing with used condoms, and wondering where they are going to sleep.
But the movie doesn't present these women as imperialist. As the movie goes on we slowly start to gather who these women are. Sayles has written some truly heartbreaking moments as some of the women describe their failed attempts at having a baby. One woman lost three at childbirth. They are not trying to take advantage of anyone. They merely want to have children to take care of and love.
Sayles, with such movies as "Sunshine State" and "City of Hope" reminds me of Robert Altman. Both men like t make these large ensemble pieces where they juggle around various characters who in unexpected ways impact one another's lives. It's a hard kind of movie to make but Sayles always seems more than ready to perform the task. If you haven't seen one of Sayles' movies, I'm not sure this is the place to start but even so, I doubt many people will say they were not somewhat touched by the movie.
As I watched one of the special features on the DVD it seems the movie is against the action of people from one country coming to adopt children from another. But I don't think Sayles reaches his objective. I had the opposite reaction.
Bottom-line: One of John Sayles best films. The acting by the cast is great with Hannah, Gyllenhaal, and Lynch standing out to me. A very touching warm movie.
This is why Sayles is not only the premier independent filmmaker, but flat-out one of the best around, if not in film history.... It is not the best film that John Sayles has ever made, and that may be simply that it was too short, at barely over an hour and a half- the first film since the Gwyneth Paltrow film Great Expectations, that probably could have used an extra 30-40 minutes, but it is a good one. Unfortunately there is only one Sayles around that makes these sorts of films on a consistent basis.