Birthmarked (2018)

Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Writer: Marc Tulin, Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Cast: Matthew Goode, Toni Collette, Andreas Apergis, Jordan Poole, Megan O’Kelly, Anton Gillis-Adelman, Michael Smiley, Fionnula Flanagan, Suzanne Clément
Seen on: 5.6.2021

Catherine (Toni Collette) and Ben (Matthew Goode) are scientists. It seems to them that their careers were pretty much fated, which gave them an interest in studying where the line between nature and nurture might lie. To that end, they are planning an experiment with their own unborn child and two other children they mean to adopt to raise them against what their nature seems to be. Rich science aficionado Gertz (Michael Smiley) agrees to fund that experiment. But 12 years in, just when the kids Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O’Kelly) are getting really difficult, Gertz suddenly demands more conclusive results and fast. This tips the balance of their household and the entire experiment into dangerous directions.

Birthmarked is an incredibly weird film, but unforunately not in a particularly charming way, more in a disturbing way. I kept turining it over in my head, but ultimately I have to say that I didn’t like it.

The film poster showing Catherine (Toni Collette), Ben (Matthew Goode), Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O'Kelly) in winter gear, standing outside.

Birthmarked has a very strange tone. For one, it is a weirdly horny film. Everybody is in your face desperately horny, which, I mean, okay, but this raunchiness feels kinda out of place in a comedy that is, on the one hand, about scientific ethics, and on the other hand, about trying to raise three kids with a very concrete idea about who they should become. Plus, there is a touch of kink-shaming in the jokes because Ben really likes it when Catherine dresses up as a horse – and apparently that in itself is already a joke.

Then it seems also really weird about its own morals. I mean, there is obviously a problem with Ben and Catherine conducting an experiment on their own children. The film acknowledges that, albeit in a way that mostly makes a joke of it while skirting past the really problematic bits. But it is a comedy after all. In the end, though, all problems are forgotten and we basically skip into the sunset hand-in-hand. It feels fake, unearned to end it there.

Catherine (Toni Collette) and Ben (Matthew Goode) entering the children's room with horrified expressions.

Speaking of unearned, the relationship between Ben and Catherine goes from picturebook happy to Ben being an utter asshole and Catherine a depressed wreck in what felt like seconds and I don’t understand what happened there at all.

I jumped into the film knowing practically nothing about it – I just saw that Collette and Goode were in it and I was sold. Maybe I should have read up a little on it, then it wouldn’t have surprised me that much that it isn’t actually any good. Don’t make the same mistake I did and trust the naysayers here.

Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O'Kelly) waiting in the snow.

Summarizing: Just don’t.

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