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Casa de los Babys   A-

IFC Films

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Director: John Sayles
Writer: John Sayles
Cast: Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Susan Lynch, Vanessa Martinez.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Several stories spring forth from the concept of motherhood in writer-director John Sayles' insightful drama Casa de los Babys. The bilingual title refers to a modest resort in an undetermined South American country whose rooms are occupied by American women patiently waiting the opportunity to adopt a local child.

Sayles drops in on six women in the middle of their waiting period as they dance around the one topic they have in common: motherhood. Their conversations sparkle with the possibilities they believe a newborn baby will bring them. Leslie (Lili Taylor) is a prototypically brassy New Yorker. Skipper (Daryl Hannah) hides a quiet tragedy of loss. Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a fragile young wife, has health issues. The abrasive Nan (Marcia Gay Harden) throws her weight around to pull the strings that should've been tugged earlier.

Red tape from a corrupt system makes these women wait. The attorney these women use happens to be the brother of the woman running their hotel, so the longer he holds them up, the more money they spend. Anti-American sentiment manifests itself in the hotel keeper (Rita Moreno) and her politically charged son. They resent the Americans' wealth, but don't hesitate to sell the needy women their children. In countries this poor, a baby is considered a valuable export. Whenever Sayles explores his impoverished South American surroundings, we examine the opposite side of this child-producing equation, where teenagers are strong-armed into putting their newborns up for adoption.

With the help of his cast, Sayles fashions Babys into a passionately interesting social discourse. He slips in touches of irony, and beautiful moments of raw sentiment. By presenting both sides of the adoption process, Casa de los Babys eventually paints a picture of the "haves" and the "have nots," and how the fate of circumstance can land you in either camp.

Review published 10.16.2003.

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