The Surrogate is an upcoming film that tackles the issues around the intersectionality of medical ethics, emotion and morality of surrogacy.
Having children via a surrogate has historically been fraught with financial, medical and moral dilemmas. Protocols of varying degrees of robustness are in place but matters of emotion and morality muddle matters in ways regulations cannot always prevent.
The Surrogate addresses middle class guilt, questions of medical ethics and the complicated relationship of a commitment-phobe and her gay best friends.
Set in a trendy neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York, this feature length film follows Jess – a 29-year-old web designer; her best friend Josh and his husband Aaron. Jess has agreed to be a surrogate and egg donor for the interracial couple with what appears to be at best, a rather loose contractual agreement binding all parties to the arrangement.
Jess, played by “The Good Fight’s” Jasmine Batchelor is from a well-educated Black family of moderate wealth, but soon reveals herself to be ill at ease with the gravity of how surrogacy situations aren’t the trite beginnings of picture perfect, quirky, modern blended families. When a 12-week pre-natal scan creates a moral and logistical dilemma, Jess finds her naivete over societal attitudes to surrogacy slammed right up against the reality the three are now facing.
As the narrative unfolds, the film advances stiltedly, as the viewer is thrown into each scene with hardly enough time to process the emotions stirred up by the last. Yet this becomes easy to overlook as an already naïve and skittish Jess grapples with not only her feelings, but those of the prospective dads in ways that are both baffling and dangerous. Indeed, her clueless, twee, socially awkward interactions eventually fall into step with the emotional journey she, the couple and the viewer embark on.
Jess employs superficial distractions to banish her emotional turmoil. In doing so, she comes across as the kind of woman who thinks most of life’s issues can be solved by a cheerful disposition. In fact, one questions whether Jess’s overall outlook on life makes her the appropriate candidate for surrogacy. This must resonate with couples in similar situations when determining what is their criteria for a surrogate.
While the turmoil of the prospective dads rather takes a back seat to their surrogate’s frantic emotional process, one is still clear that with every advancement of the rights and norms of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there remains the added considerations of parenthood. No small feat to navigate in the best of circumstances. The universality of attitudes towards racial stereotypes is tackled with bracing honesty and, through Jess’s conversations with her family, uncovers family attitudes to class and Higher Education that Jess appears to be at odds with. Though one can’t quite put the finger on why. Her introduction on screen as a skittish, nervous person gives way to a greater understanding of how being faced with intersectional moral dilemmas knocked over the first domino in a sequence of connected issues she has not even begun to address.
“The couple Josh and Aaron deliver both a heart-breaking depiction of the new type of moral dilemma faced by gay couples of relative privileges…”
Overall, director Jeremy Hersh creates a tiny time capsule of what must be far longer and more involved quandary that face parents in that position. The added layers of race, gender, chosen (vs. biological) family and sexual orientation; give only a glimpse into the overwhelming volume of information that must be processed by expectant mothers and their families.
The couple Josh and Aaron deliver both a heart-breaking depiction of the new type of moral dilemma faced by gay couples of relative privileges, and a demonstration of how much more normalized same sex households raising children has become. Yet though these rights are enshrined in law, they are not protected from all of the unexpected curve balls life throws prospective parents – gay or straight.
Hersh tells their story almost on fast-forward which in parts, leaves one breathless. But he has also provided a starting point for further discussion, while handling the position of each character with care and nuance. A satisfying watch.
Watch a trailer of the film below:
The Surrogate will be released in UK cinemas on 9 July 2021.
This article was written by Katrina Marshall