In this psychological horror, we follow Joséphine (Noémie Merlant), a French woman living in the United States, who is a very successful entrepreneur/model/blogger. Her life is seemingly “perfect”. She has a husband (Kit Harington) and is about to give birth to a child named Ruby. But after she gives birth, Joséphine slowly begins to spiral, suspecting that people surrounding her are suddenly trying to harm her; including Ruby.
One could say “Baby Ruby” is simply about the horrors of having a child, with a smattering of very dark humor concerning the process of caring for an infant. But more accurately, “Baby Ruby” is a horror movie specifically dealing with the theme of postpartum depression. And how playwright turned writer/director Bess Wohl blends these elements together is impressive to say the least, especially for a debut feature.
From the opening scene, “Baby Ruby” is set completely in the world of horror. But the visuals go further than just seeing an exhausted first-time parent. Wohl’s horror inspired visuals work hard to capture the feeling of raising an infant, through the eyes of a woman who is home alone with said infant all day long. For a portion of this movie the only background noise we get is the sound of a baby relentlessly crying. Wohl then presents a world where Joséphine begins to ask for help and is met with dismissive responses that range from, “It’s normal for babies to cry” to a slew of microaggressions masked as advice.
When I say that this has dark comedic elements, nothing in “Baby Ruby” is laugh out loud funny, but more so a satirical critique on the things that are normalized in the United States healthcare system surrounding giving birth and caring for an infant. All of the dark humor scenarios in this have been seen before in your standard comedy about raising young kids. Wohl takes these tropes and plays them not overtly for laughs, but more to illicit anxiety and fear. In its darker moments, the sharply written script addresses the idea of someone believing their baby is capable of being angry to the point of violence, the idea of being angry with your own baby and the idea of being afraid of your own baby.
The performance from Noémie Merlant only adds to the viewers ability to empathize with this character, even when what she is seeing becomes less and less believable. Through the performance we see Joséphine as someone who is thrown into a situation that she is told she will instinctually be able to handle. And even as she begins to sink, is still expected to maintain her “girl boss” persona.
Final Thought: As someone who is never going to give birth, “Baby Ruby” is not a horror movie made for me. I understand that. I also understand that some of Wohl’s punchlines were meant to garner a trauma response only from those who’ve given birth and/or raised an infant. That said, as a childless millennial, I really admire this movie; in its technical construction, its story and most importantly in its willingness to shine a light on some of the darker aspects of the “things we don’t talk about”, that people who give birth go through when raising a child.
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus and on Instagram @moviesmarkus1