Preview by: Jack Foley
ONE OF the leading lights of the US indie scene for more than
two decades, John Sayles, is to return with a tough but touching
and typically insightful film about a diverse bunch of American
women staying at an adoption centre somewhere south of the border,
each hoping to be one of the lucky ones who receive a new-born
Casa De Los Babys was shot on location in Acapulco and stars
a typically strong ensemble cast, including Daryl Hannah, Lili
Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen,
Rita Moreno, Susan Lynch, and Vanessa Martinez.
It will be playing at this year's London Film Festival on October
23 and 24 and promises to be one of the highlights of the event.
The festival website says the film is as 'morally and politically
astute as ever', adding that 'Sayles widens out the drama beyond
the six northerners (beautifully played by Gyllenhaal, Gay Harden,
Taylor, Lynch, Steenburgen and Hannah), so that we are also granted
an illuminating glimpse into the lives of the clinics staff
and some of the kids who inhabit the nearby streets'.
Questions of culture, class, economics, education, ethics and
faith are explored with a characteristically light touch, with
Sayles wise but witty script allowing everyone their reasons,
notwithstanding the occasional bitchiness that arises due to differences
in character, attitude and rivalry.
A film in the tradition of The Women or The Bitter Tears of Petra
von Kant, but given a terribly relevant spin for the globalisation
era, it offers an enormously entertaining and intelligent look
at lifes mad lottery.
The film has already been reviewed by the majority of critics
in America, who described it as a typically strong offering from
Leading the way is E! Online, which awarded it a B, and
described it as 'a worthwhile therapy session that all genders
The New York Daily News, meanwhile, wrote that 'you can
trust a John Sayles movie to combine great storytelling with social
conscience and Casa de los Babys is no exception'.
And the LA Daily News wrote that it is 'as rich in ideas
as it is in fine acting'.
The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, felt that by 'eschewing
all sentiment, avoiding all pathos, keeping his film and most
of the women hard as nails, [Sayles] manages to tell a compelling
And the Boston Globe wrote that 'Sayles does more showing
than his usual telling, without forsaking his interest in people
and the histories and societies that have created their problems'.
There were some negative notices, however, with the likes of
Film Journal International opining that it 'has too few
compelling moments, however, and too little momentum to sustain
While Variety felt that 'a woman filmmaker may have been
able to draw more complex emotional truths from the issues raised
concerning motherhood, family and conception vs. adoption'.
And the Washington Post felt that 'for all his patient,
accumulative storytelling, Sayles yields little that doesn't feel
trite or overly schematic'.
Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, went one stage further
and stated that 'revelations about the women, when they arrive,
feel pat and perfunctory. Characters burst into monologues at
preordained moments that come off as contrived'.
But completing this round-up is the Globe and Mail, which
wrote that 'its greatest achievement is to insist that we, the
relatively lucky, do what fear and pride seldom allow us to do
- to venture back to life's opening scene, respinning the wheel
and replaying the lottery'.