Grace (2009) - WARNING! Spoilers throughout, since so much hinges on the character development in this fine film, I want to talk about it so know I recommend it and watch it before reading my thoughts. I was caught by surprised by the opening of this film. I had forgotten that the films opening scene is part of the last one too. The horror features of the film are present , a shot of a fly infested ceiling fan, the nude back of a woman as she seems to be in pain cringing away from us. Two bare feet splattered with blood, a black cat. this is it with excellent moody music by Austin Wintory bring us into the horror mood. It is not carried through this bit of horror film making but it is there just to stick the idea that this is not a sunny movie into our heads.
Next we see our main character Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) having sex in a disinterested way with her husband Michael(Stephen Park). As he grunts and thrusts she could be thinking, "I wonder if we should change the living room drapes". Of course this is before we the audience know that this couple has been trying for a long time to have a child. That they have lost two pregnancies already so more likely she is hoping that this is the time where the egg attaches and stays there. After the act she pulls her legs up and closes her eyes imaging the success we know she so desperately wants. Sure enough we see her next seven months later and she is round as can be, the acts worked and she is close to term but not quite there.
Grace is a good film really doing some smart writing that fill out the main characters in ways that drive the motivations throughout the plot. Writer and Director Paul Solet fills the interaction that grace has with her in-laws with so much disapproval and frustration that there is no doubt what the dynamics are. Madeline is a vegetarian new age type who wants her pregnancy and birth to be the most natural way possible. She wants to eat healthily and to give birth in a birthing center and to be centered in bring her new life into the world. This is contrasted by Vivian Matheson (Gabrielle Rose) who is a powerful judge and super pushy mother in law. She doesn't approve of the food and the plans and without saying it clearly lets Madeline know. You know those people who won't say, this diet sucks, but instead suggest better ways of doing things. This is Vivian and she seems a force to be reckoned with. Her own issues surface with this pregnancy, a Mother who is finally losing her boy to another women. She has reached the age of being anywhere close to child bearing age and is feeling with this child her son will be gone from her forever. She is a woman who thinks she knows best and is not afraid to push at the new age younger woman. It is a really well put together power struggle. It bases both women in their own approaches and shows how the places where they come together are frayed.
Before that though there is amazing dig at traditional medicine. The intent is to drive wedges and it is again skillfully written. Having established Madeline's intent with her birth the scene is she has chest pain and is rushed to the hospital. In this scene the pushy Vivian sends her male doctor in to take charge while Madeline pushes to get her midwife to the scene. The male doctors jump to the conclusion that Madeline needs to be induce way too early in the pregnancy while she screams in protest they start making plans to do the procedure. The established medical structure ignores the patient's wishes and acts as if it knows best. When Patty arrives they are restraining Madeline as she protests and it is only the knowledge of the midwife and the threat of a lawsuit that stops the men.
That kind of strain on a pregnant woman can not be good but it also sets Michael and Madeline arguing on the way home, leading to an car accident that kills Michael and kills the baby in Madeline's womb. She wanting this child more than anything, now a widow decides to carry it to term to be delivered dead at the birthing center. Again the music should be noted with the direction for the delivery scene is excellent. African drums building to a climax with Madeline's labor screams punctuating the birth. Then the quiet as she holds her still child and cries begging the heavens for her life. Patty going against her instinct to let her have time with the little corpse watches on a camera in the other room as miraculously the child comes to life.
Having established that Madeline will not take the baby to the hospital she relies on Patty for care after the birth. Patty obsessing about her former lover starts it seems to make plans to be reunited with Madeline but is not ready to make it known to her yet. Madeline struggling with the new child soon realizes that this is no ordinary baby. Mothers milk is not going to satisfy its unique nutritional needs, Beef blood is not going to satiate the hunger of this little tyke. Mom has to give in o a more extreme form of feeding. Named Grace the baby not only has issues feeding but also smells maybe like a rotten corpse? You get the picture things about this dead then alive baby are very unusual and the depressed Madeline does all she can to deal with these unique conditions.
The story moves to climax with grieving Vivian feeling her own need to continue to be a Mother. Hatching a plan with Dr. Sohn to get Madeline declared unfit she is so fucked up in her own way its sad. This sets up a very interesting final third to this film. Sohn trying to see Madeline and the baby, she really probably unfit with the bloody demands of Motherhood and Patty planning to take her away from it all. When the doctor finally corners her, she is anemic and worn from feeding little Grace without outside help. Things escalate quickly and Sohn, Vivian and Madeline will make decisions that can not be reversed. The imagery of these scenes is compelling and like with most of the film the music is dark and effective. This is a very darkly entertaining film and is most certainly recommended with the caution that it gets a bit bloody. The one drawback I would note is the corny epilogue tacked on to the end of the film, it was very unnecessary.