Horror is often utilized as a metaphor of sorts. The dangers of drugs and premarital sex lead to a hockey-masked killer slicing you up. The monster from your son’s children’s book is manifested through trauma that hasn’t been dealt with yet. The lack of resources in a dangerous, low-income Chicago community leads them to believe a Black man with a hook is hiding in their walls. There’s so much to dive into when you watch a really good scary movie. BABY RUBY can fit into multiple genres, but it was straight horror for me as my anxiety was at an all-time high for almost the entire film.

Social media influencer Jo (Noémie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) seemingly lives the perfect life. She posts all her DIY projects online and her large following reacts within seconds of posting. She’s also pregnant and close to giving birth when she throws her own baby shower. Her need to present herself as nothing short of perfect is evident, especially when she, for example, adjusts the cake just a few inches for photography purposes even though it looked exactly the same. Life kicks her in the ass when she gives birth to Ruby, a beautiful baby girl who refuses to let Jo’s transition to motherhood go smoothly.

Like many newborns, Ruby cries all the time causing Jo sleep deprivation. All her followers are hungry for pictures of the baby, but Jo just doesn’t feel right taking her picture yet. Ruby bites Jo when she breastfeeds and even seems to be displaying hostile behavior towards Jo. To make things even more stressful, all the neighborhood mothers seem to have the complete “perfect” mothering experience. Their babies are always quiet, mysteriously hiding under their carriages. All the women’s bodies are already back in shape and go running together with smiles on their faces.

Meanwhile, Jo’s appearance clearly reflects her emotional state. How does she get Ruby to stop crying? Does Ruby wish she had a different mother and this is why she is driving Jo crazy? To top it off, Jo is beginning to have the lines blurred between dreams and reality as she has violent visions involving Ruby. The nightmares are violent and full of new mom anxiety which isn’t helped by the fact that her husband Spencer (Kit Harrington, “Game of Thrones”) is a butcher.

Director Bess Wohl uses her film debut to terrorize the audience, especially those who have children. There are uncomfortable conversations about how new mothers often feel versus what they actually feel due to fearing being deemed an awful woman. Society pressures mothers to be the primary caregiver no matter the emotional cost and still look like a million bucks in public even though she’s been up all night, changing shitty diapers.

BABY RUBY is a stressful and horrifying experience, but that’s how motherhood is, right? Wohl wants the conversation to shift without shaming women who feel alone and awful for sometimes just needing a break. I can totally see this movie either being triggering or played as comfort to mothers who see themselves onscreen not as monsters, but as women who need patience and love surrounding them as they go through one of the most stressful experiences of their lives.

BABY RUBY feels terrifyingly real and I think the world needs that reality check now whether they are ready for it or not.

BABY RUBY had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Jovy Skol
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