False positive

  • 10 Jul - 16 Jul, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Ilana Glazer, who remains best known for co-creating and starring in Broad City, takes a dramatic leap forward in False Positive. She plays Lucy, a woman struggling to conceive, whose husband Adrian takes her to see an expert in the field, Dr Hindle, an in-demand fertility expert as well as an old friend and mentor of his. Within a few sessions, Lucy finds herself pregnant, a miracle, but one that carries with it a lingering feeling that something is wrong.

The first act is deceptively well-calibrated, offsetting the loose familiarity of the set-up with something less well-explored: the slowly mounting frustration of being a woman at the mercy of men at a time when one should feel most in control of one’s own body. First at work where Lucy is patronised by flannel shirt-wearing #NotAllMen sexists and then at Dr Hindle’s clinic where she starts to figure out that she’s not being allowed much, if any, agency with her pregnancy and then finally at home by a husband whose idea of her as a mother and wife is not aligned with her own. But how much of what’s happening to Lucy is real and how much is the result of “mommy brain”? Those around her offhandedly cast aside her fears as a form of hysteria, as people often do with women, and the film works best when exploring this particularly egregious form of misogyny, how the patriarchy of medicine has not only been mentally harmful but also physically dangerous.

This crescendos with a devastating decision Lucy has to make and one that’s wincingly well-explored, both with how it impacts her relationship and how it affects her psyche but once it’s made, Lee’s film gets stuck in second gear, a collection of hit-and-mostly-miss visions of varying creepiness, and while there are effectively rage-inducing micro-aggressions inter-spliced, the slow-burn is at times a little too slow. The unsteadying surrealism of some of Lee’s scenery and storytelling is often just confusing and distances us from the main emotional thrust of the film even as Glazer gallantly tries to draw us back in. Things really fall apart in the finale, though, as too many big ideas are thrown at the wall, none of them really sticking.

– Compilation