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Movie Reviews

Angel Baby  

Angel Baby is an Australian film which walked away with many of that country's film awards a few years ago, undoubtedly for its authentic depiction of a mentally ill couple caught in a bind between their dreams of an independent life and the reality of their debilitating illness. The main characters are Harry and Kate, who meet one day at a meeting for mentally ill outpatients.  Harry, with his medication, is actually able to live a fairly normal life, and doesn't strike one as really "strange", although he is undoubtedly a free spirit.  Kate, on the other hand, is touched with peculiarities and demons despite the medication.  When Harry quietly attempts to get nearer to her on the bus after the meeting, she behaves as if she is terrified of him, and runs swiftly off the bus.  But is it really fear, or just a game.  Apparently the latter, since she suddenly vanishes, only to jump out from behind him and frighten him.  Quickly, they engage in talk, mainly about their mental past, and also a moment when they reveal to each other their self-inflicted physical wounds from suicide attempts.

Kate's main calling in life is to read the secret messages she believes are transmitted in the puzzles of "Wheel of Fortune".  Her guardian angel Astral gives her predictions of the future through the answers.  Kate is so adamant about getting these messages she drags Harry to the nearest TV storewindow to watch the show and write everything down.  What is somehow touching is the easy acceptance Harry gives to this fact, even though they have only gotten aquatinted in a matter of an hour.  Most "normal" people would no doubt run away, but Harry has been through the delusions of illness, so he doesn't see Kate any more strangely than he does himself.  He feels he's met a kindred spirit, a soul mate.

Their relationship grows more passionate and serious, and quickly they decide they want to move in together, and begin a truly independant life in society.  Astral continues to give predictions, including "Great Expectations", "big as a blimp", and "Thank heaven for little girls".  You guessed it, a baby is coming.   And this is where things begin to go downhill.  Like fickle Fortune`s wheel in classical literature, Kate adn Harry`s fortunes indifferently go from hopeful to hellish.

The two decide to go off all stubstances which could be harmful to the baby.  This includes their medication.  Immediately, we see the effects of this dangerous event.  A scene which made me very uncomfortable involved the couple at a K-Mart who, when confronted with a discount for a product at the checkout line, violently demand to pay the full price because Astral gave them those numbers.  This scene continues as a rollerblader accidently hits and cuts Kate.  Kate is angry and horrified when the kid helps her wipe off the cut, becasue he has "stolen" her blood.  In front of many concerned and bewildered customers, she screams, cries, and wipes the blood from the floor and licks it from her hands in the hopes she can retrieve it.   As days and weeks go by, nothing improves, and things do not end happily, but there seems to be no way they could, in this situation.

I could quibble about how it seems the easy way out for the woman to be the more severly mentally ill.  Throughout literary history women, more than men, have been deemed crazy or eccentric, due to their behaviors.  And in this film, it is true that Kate is definitely the more unstable.  Harry is protrayed more as a man at the end of his rope, trying to deal with the hopes of starting a family, making sure Kate`s pregnancy goes fine, and with his own illness at the same time.  Kate is on her own wavelength, entirely cut off from the whole world, with only Harry to truly understand her.  But one must isolate those past associations, because I believe most stories are about specific characters anyway.  They only stand for themselves.   Also, it took me a while to understand why Harry would also get off the medication, since he is not the one carrying the baby.    But then I realized that these two are inseprable, two people linked into one soul.  They believe this almost literally, so of course they are "literally" going through this pregnancy together.  Naturally for them, it could only be "safe" for the child if both halves of the same "body" stop with the possibly toxic medication.

This film is well-done, with fine acting, and sympathetic characters.  It doesn`t lay on the preachiness about the struggles of mentally ill people; it just gives us the struggles and the people, plain and simple.  It is also for those who can withstand unhappy endings.  All I can say is that after all these depressing movies I`ve seen lately, from this one to One True Thing
and Brillant Lies, for once I should watch something that won`t sadden me for a few hours after

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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