There are an endless amount of reasons to attend the SXSW festival, one of the best being the opportunity to view filmmakers usher in a new generation of creativity. Paul Solet’s Grace can speak on that matter.
Before attending the screening on midnight Saturday, there was already buzz building around Grace. Accounts of moviegoers fainting at previous screenings had us chomping at the bit to see the film. We didn’t faint during the film and we’re grateful for that fact. Had we passed out, we would have missed a chance for Solet, the writer and director, to present us a mature and insightful take on the matters of childbirth.
The film respectfully focuses on the story of Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd), who is eight months pregnant and looking to deliver her baby, Grace, naturally. When a tragic accident leaves the child dead inside her, she decides to carry the child to term. Through a misguided sense of love and faith, the baby miraculously is born.
The miracle of life, however, quickly goes bad when we realize that Grace isn’t your normal newborn, unless you count babies with a bloodlust as normal. While Grace can’t support herself, Madeline can. The mother is determined to provide and protect the child at all costs, the price being her sanity and relationship with loved ones around her.
The strength of the film lies in Solet’s ability to offer us different female perspectives. The irony of films that delve into such heavy issues is that more often than not the writer (especially a male writer) has no clue how to write from a female’s point of view. Solet ambitiously and masterfully spins a web of complicated female roles that all have their own voice, and all are struggling to make sense and cling to their loved ones in twisted ways.
The decision to tell a story weighted with the tragedy of inevitable loss as a parent in the horror genre allows Solet to push the envelope, something he doesn’t hesitate to do. Like childbirth, Grace is messy, bloody and shocking, but not at the sake of forfeiting the importance and clarity of the story.
There isn’t a weak link in the acting ensemble, much to our relief. It’s to the industry’s discredit that whenever we hear the subject matter of pregnancy, we automatically think of Lifetime films. There isn’t any reason to roll your eyes at Grace, and Jordan Ladd is completely believable as we watch her go through the struggles of motherhood. Gabrielle Rose and Samantha Ferris also rise to the top as women understandably concerned, if a bit misguided, for Madeline and Grace’s well-being.
Too often male writers approach subjects more familiar to women and botch the whole matter up. Solet isn’t that type of writer. His writing is honest, meaningful and never undermines the story or characters in a pretentious manner.
The film leaves you asking a few questions, but no more than the typical horror film. It’s important to suspend disbelief in the genre. Hell, the majority of films in said genre completely operate around this idea. Grace is a horror film that operates around real issues, then amps it up to the tenth degree.
Grace isn’t for the light of heart and that’s a good thing. Sugar-coating a horror film about childbirth, any film about childbirth actually, would have compelled us to walk out of the theater immediately. Grace takes the formula, turns it on its head and substitutes the sap for large amounts of blood, which results in a bloody entertaining time.
For more of the best SXSW film coverage on the web, keep an eye on our SXSW ’09 homepage.