Baby: The Secret Diary of a Mom to Be (2019) [Fantasia Festival 2020]

A young woman about to climb the ladder in her career after years of hard work and effort finds herself pregnant unexpectedly. This delights her mother-in-law who begins a series of overbearing, meant to help actions.

This film by Luk Yee-Sum takes the struggles of a happily married career woman and throws in a pregnancy that may not be wanted. The lead here, Carmen, doesn’t want kids as the film starts and as she is pushed and shoved in the direction of having a kid by everyone from her husband to his mother to a birth and baby specialist to her friends and everyone in-between. The film shows the incredible pressure that comes for a society that views a woman who doesn’t want children as someone who will simply change her mind. This attitude is frustrating and shows a lack of understanding that not all women want kids. Does this mom to be change her mind? What do you think? This film brings the exact same point of view in the end as other films where a career woman who doesn’t want kids changes her mind once she finds out she’s pregnant/sees her baby on the sonogram/… It may be well-written and directed, the content still comes off as condescending to a woman who doesn’t want kids and doesn’t plan on changing her mind. This obsession with all women needing to want children is something that comes off off-putting even when wrapped in the most colorful and sweet wrapper.

Now, the story and its evolution may be frustrating and feel condescending, the case here does good work with each of their parts. Playing Carmen, the lead, is Dada Chan Ching who gives her character strength and her own mind in most of the sequences, even when she is being pushed and shoved. She also gives her character charm and depth when needed. There is something about her performance that helps the film from falling completely in the annoyance that such stories have become over the years. This lead performance basically saved the film for this reviewer as the rest of the cast does fine, but their interpretations of their characters come off mostly as expected, without deviation.

Baby: The Secret Diary of a Mom to Be is a sweet yet frustrating watch as it goes for the tropes and just lays it on when it comes to showing how much someone who absolutely does not want children will just magically change her mind once one is on the way. The film’s performances are decent in most cases with the lead coming up on top of them all. It’s not a completely disagreeable watch which makes the frustrations even worse when things move along. Once past the frustration, there is something to be enjoyed here, but to some, those frustrations will be enough to turn the film off.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs every year, and this year runs virtually from August 20th until September 2nd.