Motherhood can (also) be a nightmare
The nightmare that everything in your life ends up revolving around the baby, that your personal life evaporates so severely that you no longer even recognize yourself and forget what it was like to have a night out with your buddies. The feeling of being totally consumed and wiped out by motherhood is the central theme in the series The Baby, delivered with a combination of comedy and horror and starring a character who, in fact, is very clear that she does not want to be a mother.
Despite all her close circle of friends either already having kids or are expecting, Natasha remains resolute about conserving her state as the independent woman, free from the gargantuan responsibility of caring for another human being. Not even the fact that she’s fast approaching the 40-year mark can make her change her mind. That is until a stroke of fate, or simply tough luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, require that she ends up becoming responsible for a baby, one that literally drops out of the blue and lands right in Natasha’s arms.
With this surprising starting point, The Baby, now available on HBO Max, manages to grab your attention from the get-go, but what comes next is even more shocking: Natasha will do her best to get rid of the baby, but every time she tries to do so, something violent (and absurd) happens that returns the child to her. Then, there’s all the folk around the baby who drop dead, causing both Natasha and audiences to become suspicious that, no matter how chubby his little cheeks are and however angelic his smile is, the baby has powers and is murdering people at will. Is it diabolical? Or maybe it’s simply Natasha’s fear of motherhood manifesting itself by way of surreal nightmares?
And so, screenwriting tandem Sian Robins-Grace and Lucy Gamer, guide us through this enigma to narrate Natasha’s adventures with the bairn, as they occur to the backdrop of a blend of abruptly violent scenes reminiscent of Fargo, and attacks of collective hysteria and eloquent references to Rosemary’s Baby.
The series manages to capture the desperation of motherhood while doing do conserving a sense of humor, especially with regards to what happens during the first months of the baby’s life, when idyllic expectations are crushed and replaced by the reality of how hard it can be getting the child to breastfeed, trying to soothe and cope with a crying, colicky baby, and the endless sleepless nights that would make anyone’s reality take on shades of the surreal like those the series uses to create its nightmarish universe. Actress Michelle de Swarte (The Duchess) transitions gracefully between expressions of horror and comic reactions. But despite the laughs, the series is exploring a controversial issue such as a mother’s rejection of her newborn baby, and the difficulty in getting your head around the fact that becoming a mother involves changing priorities definitively.
The show can even afford to explore the question of the wish to murder the baby, running the risk of crossing a red line that many wouldn’t be willing to accept if it weren’t a series that plays with the horror genre. And if it weren’t for the concerns around the baby’s evil character that could justify his murder as an act of survival. It’s a pity the storyline starts losing steam as it progresses and that the search for the baby’s biological mother lacks the narrative strength to be truly entertaining and justify the eight episodes of a series that struggles to live up to its shocking starting point. That said, the particular mix of horror and comedy, sometimes moving from one to the other with surprising ease, is enough to recommend a viewing, especially to the mothers out there who say, “I love him so much, but there’s times when I’d kill him”. This is your series.