Casa de Los Babys
The movie title is from a motel in an unnamed South American country where American women endure painfully-slow adoptions of local babies. "They're making us pay for our babies with the balance of trade," complains Nan (Harden), as weeks go by. The women kill time as best they can, as viewers eavesdrop on their sad, painful, sometimes funny conversations.
Writer-director Sayles, an independent, conscience-savvy American filmmaker, imparts no neat message. Nothing can easily be said about the adoption industry; instead, we meet locals who have given up their babies, local radicals who oppose adoption for ideological reasons, and young children who live on the streets. In one of the most heart-rending scenes, two women, one Irish, one Latina, tell each other of their wishes for children. Neither can understand a word the other says, but emotion somehow comes through. Eileen (Lynch) and Asuncion (Martinez) speak quietly; we feel their deep emotion.
Skipper (Hannah), an athletic woman who bolts along on the beach while other would-be mothers watch her, one day gives another woman a massage, and begins to talk about her three miscarriages. She has given her miscarried fetuses names; she intently misses each of them. Nan (Harden), another of the women, is anything but sentimental. "Bargaining is an accepted part of their culture," she insists while paying below-market prices to locals at every turn, and she steals toiletries from the casa's maids' carts. Gayle and Leslie (Steenburgen and Taylor) wonder whether someone with her character flaws should adopt.
Each woman has a painful story. Gayle's long years of alcoholism, Leslie's inability to stay with one man long enough to embark on parenthood, and Jennifer (Gyllenhaal)'s barrenness all prevent the women from normal parenthood. Senora Munoz (Moreno) owns the agency, has seen hundreds of women come and go. Her lawyer brother handles the paperwork, and thinks of the women as capitalist exploiters, but his sister exploits the women.
Sayles shows both sides. One maid, Asuncion gave up her baby; she imagines her living happily in the U.S.A., but clearly misses her. The street kids, abandoned by their parents, would happily go home with a rich Americana. Sayles' film seems almost a documentary, showing us all the characters' stories, inviting us to share their hopes and fears, and to speculate on their motives.
Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllen
Americans adopting Latino babies; John Sayles
English with some subtitled Spanish Reviewer's Name:
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