Friday, May 23, 2014

Return to Zero: a movie about life's journey after a stillbirth

Return to Zero starring Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein which aired in the U.S. on May 17th. It is based on the real journey of the director, writer and producer, Sean Hanish and his wife, Kiley, after the stillbirth of their first child.

It opens with the childbirth class that Aaron and Maggie Royal are taking. They joke with each other and are obviously excited about the coming of their first child. Then they have the baby shower where they reveal the gender with the cutting of the cake. It’s a boy! All the men congratulate Aaron on “getting it right the first time.” At the doctor’s office, the nurse and the doctor can’t find the heartbeat. This is where the doctor gives her the devastating news, the baby has died. The couple soon meets with the doctor and a grief counselor and make decisions on how to proceed. They name the baby Arthur. At the memorial service, they release balloons in honor of Arthur. Maggie and Aaron are left to pick up the pieces. Their marriage is at the point of breaking when Maggie discovers she’s pregnant again.

Return to Zero portrays a story that many people do not want to talk about or even think about. Stillbirths occur about 1 out of 160 pregnancies. Sometimes there is a reason why but most often, there isn’t. I have very mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, I am happy that someone is willing to talk about a topic that many people wish to ignore. I have met many women who have lost a child through stillbirth and they are desperate to have their children acknowledge and their pain recognized. I liked that the loss of a child either it be through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, the pain is the same. “It’s the loss of the possibility of what might have been” as one character describes the situation.

There are many reasons why I have mixed feelings about this movie. What I disliked is the reason why I can’t love this movie. First, at one point of the movie, Aaron is talking with his co-worker and he talks about how his sex life is nonexistent since the death of his child. He refers to his penis as Geddy Lee (who is the lead vocalist, bassist and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group, Rush). I know that some men name their penises but it wasn’t necessary for the story and actually caused me to dislike Aaron. Second, Maggie begins to feel sick and runs to the bathroom to vomit. I didn’t need to see her actually vomit. It wasn’t necessary to actually see her vomit. The noises from outside the bathroom would have done the trick. Third, Maggie takes the pregnant test and the audience actually sees her take down her pants and hears her pee. I didn’t need to see her take the test. I didn’t need to see Maggie sitting on the toilet. I think a scene of her staring at the positive test would have had the same effect.

I commend the movie for speaking up for a taboo subject but I found both Maggie and Aaron unlikable. There is so much more I can tell you why I disliked this movie but I think you get the picture. If you want a glimpse into one story of a stillbirth and the journey of recovery, I would recommend this movie as there aren’t many to choose from. Return to Zero is a typical Lifetime movie which portrays a real life story that has stale acting and stereotypical characters.