'With Child': Film Review
Titus Heckel's debut feature concerns a widowed father struggling to make a new life for himself while caring for his infant daughter.
Director-screenwriter Titus Heckel makes an auspicious feature debut with this comedy-drama about a widowed father attempting to care for his four-month-old daughter while facing a custody battle with his sister-in-law and stumbling his way through a new romantic relationship. While its storyline seems overly familiar, With Child displays a refreshing quirkiness bolstered by its clever screenplay, which features a multitude of funny one-liners. This Canadian film recently showcased at NYC's Soho International Film Festival deserves wider exposure.
Kerry van der Griend, best known for playing Neanderthal #1 in the three Night at the Museum films, essays the lead role of construction worker Auden Price, who's facing innumerable difficulties raising his daughter, Riley, while also trying make a living. In the film's early moments, he convinces his boss to allow him to bring his tyke to the construction site where he works, explaining, "She doesn't have my experience, but she'll be a real morale builder."
Needless to say, it doesn't go well, leading Auden to land a sideline job renovating the basement of a house owned by Petra (Leslie Lewis), a prickly university professor who doesn't mind the child's presence — even if she's less than impressed by Auden's parenting skills. That doesn't stop her from initiating an awkward romance with her stone-faced employee who's still struggling with grief over his late wife.
"She's kinda cute," comments Petra on the indeed adorable infant, to which Auden replies: "She takes after me."
Auden, meanwhile, struggles to regain his emotional equilibrium — a difficult proposition, considering that he's reduced to conducting an Internet search for "Porn for the Bereaved." But there are some advantages to having to constantly tote around his baby girl, such as when he takes her out to a nightclub with his friends, and she turns out to be quite the "babe magnet."
Relating its essentially serious storyline with an abundance of such humorous moments, the film proves a low-key charmer, with the two talented lead performers delivering their laugh lines in a quietly deadpan fashion that only makes them funnier. Thankfully avoiding the sort of melodramatic courtroom showdown endemic to such similarly themed predecessors as Kramer vs. Kramer, With Child culminates in a feel-good ending that seems well earned.
Production: With Child Productions
Cast: Kerry van der Griend, Leslie Lewis, Lori Kokotailo, Michael Soltis, Beau Heaton
Director-screenwriter: Titus Heckel
Producers: Shannon Braithwaite, Titus Heckel, Leslie Lewis
Executive producers: Loida Nicolas Lewis, Gavin Sword
Director of photography: Vince Arvidson
Production designer: Alyssa King
Editor: John Redpath
Composer: Alfredo Santa Ana
Not rated, 87 min.