Baby (2018) [Bao Bei Er] – Movie Review

Baby [Bao Bei Er] – unrated
Release Date: TBA

This film from writer/director Jie Liu stars Mi Yang as a young woman named Meng who was abandoned as a baby and is aging out of her foster home after turning 18. (She is 20 during the events of the film.) When she gets a job cleaning at a hospital, she finds that there is a baby who also has the same collection of birth defects (VACTERL) that is being allowed to die. She takes it upon herself to save the child by whatever means necessary.

Baby deals with real social and political issues in China. As a westerner, I was able to pick up on most of what was going on through offhanded comments and exposition that discussed the epidemic of abandonment with VACTERL being a new concept to me. Essentially, it is common for parents who do not want to or cannot care for their children to abandon them to the state. They are then placed into a foster system where they can be fostered by parents who receive a stipend for the care.

Meng specifically had a battery of surgeries that we only see in a brief scene where she obtains a physical examination in order to prove she can work. She and her ailing, elderly foster mother want to live together but the state wants to put the mother in a home and move Meng into the next level of housing for adults with disabilities.

What feels like a very light, understated storytelling style is almost certainly an attempt to plant some of the movie’s ideas and messages in the Chinese audience’s mind while respecting the government. A similar American story would likely make points about the difference between our perception and the reality of people on welfare.

That’s not to say Baby has nothing for viewers outside of Chinese culture. It’s an insightful look into a situation outsiders likely have little knowledge of and the explanations and the drama surrounding the situation are reason enough for the experience. It’s not a movie I would recommend to everyone, but it’s slow, beautifully shot storytelling is worth it for those with the patience to read the subtext between the subtitles.

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