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Stephanie Daley

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
PREGNANT PAUSE Tamblyn, center, meets the press.
PREGNANT PAUSE Tamblyn, center, meets the press.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

For all of our culture’s sanctity of motherhood, movies have done a fine job of making pregnancy look horrifying—even if you aren’t carrying Satan’s spawn. Add to the maculate-conception genre Hilary Brougher’s latest, whose two protagonists are haunted by dead babies: Churchgoing teen Stephanie (Tamblyn) is accused of murdering her newborn and sits for taped testimony with forensic psychologist Lydie (Swinton), who’s pregnant again after a stillbirth the summer before.

The premise may ring of WE TV, but Brougher is exceptionally gifted in her attention to visceral detail (her script won the screenwriting award at Sundance). “Was she still in the leg of your snow pants?” Lydie asks Stephanie, barely masking her revulsion. Both leads are remarkable, with Tamblyn the true revelation here; as she gives birth in a bathroom stall, her face contorts with pain in what can only be described as a silent scream.

Yet for all Brougher’s smart choices, her film is frequently compromised by too much tidiness. First are the obvious symbols: Stephanie’s English class reads The Scarlet Letter; dead deer litter the highways. And the last scene especially shows the director losing the courage of her convictions. Rather than absolution and a hug, why not continued doubt? (Opens Fri; Angelika.) — Melissa Anderson

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