REVIEW – Babycall (2011)

FilmJuice have my review of Pål Sletaune’s psychological thriller Babycall.

The film tells the story of a mother and child that are placed in a witness relocation programme after their abusive husband and father is sent to prison. Intensely nervous and over-protective, Anna refuses to allow her son to sleep in her own bed until she purchases a baby monitor that allows her to hear him sleep. However, once the monitor is plugged in it begins picking up horrific sounds of abuse coming from another device in the same apartment block. Assisted by Helge, a man whose status as the son of an overprotective mother allows him to understand the woman’s desire to protect her son, Anna begins investigating the source of the noises only for her entire life to begin unraveling.

At the heart of Babycall is the complex, unhealthy but ultimately humanising relationship between Helge and Anna. Fresh from her success as the original cinematic Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace offers us a veneer of faceless maternal anxiety that slowly peels away, revealing more and more humanity as Anna becomes more and more detached from reality. Similarly impressive is Joner who manages to find strength, courage and likeability in a character whose life has been defined by a cowardly willingness to apologise for the actions of a monstrous and tyrannical parent. These twin performances, though entertaining to watch in their own right, provide a sound human basis for what could all too easily have been a directionless attack on abusive parenting. The power of Babycall lies not in the decision to confront the issue of abusive parenting but rather in the capacity to make these types of parent appear sympathetic. Indeed, we feel for Anna because she is afraid and because she loves her son but when that love produces individuals as broken as Helge, we have to ask whether maternal love is really the unambiguously positive thing we have always assumed it to be.

Flawlessly paced, psychologically compelling and full of brilliant twists and turns, Babycall is not only a fantastic psychological thriller, it is also a very brave film indeed. Without wanting to give too much away, it might be worth seeing Philippe Claudel’s I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) before you see Babycall as both films tread quite similar ground (albeit in very different ways).

People with an interest in well-executed psychological thrillers might also want to check out Sletaune’s previous film Next Door (2005), which I reviewed over here.