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Casa De Los Babys - Preview & US reaction



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 baby.

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 clinic’s 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 life’s mad lottery.

US reaction

The film has already been reviewed by the majority of critics in America, who described it as a typically strong offering from Sayles.

Leading the way is E! Online, which awarded it a B, and described it as 'a worthwhile therapy session that all genders can enjoy'.

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 story'.

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 viewer interest'.

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'.

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