Baby Love -- Film Review

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Considering all the furor surrounding hot-button issues of gay marriage and gay adoption, it's not surprising that the subject has been turning up in features made around the world. Vincent Garenq's French film, "Baby Love," joins such recent films as "Patrik, Age 1.5" from Sweden and the Canadian-made "Breakfast With Scot." Garenq's film deals with the subject of gay adoption, which is not legal in France. All of these films try a little too hard to have mainstream appeal, but "Baby Love" is slick, charming and extremely well acted. It has a chance to attract an audience if handled well by a savvy art house distributor.

As in many stories of gay adoption, one of the partners is a lot more eager to raise a child than the other. Manu (Lambert Wilson) is a picture-perfect pediatrician who longs to be a dad, while lawyer Philippe (Pascal Elbe) does not want to abandon his footloose life. The guys are at an impasse, and Philippe eventually moves out so that Manu can pursue his dream. Then Manu meets Fina (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), an illegal Argentinean immigrant who would love to stay in Paris. Manu offers marriage if she will agree to act as surrogate mother and provide the child he craves.

Needless to say, there are a number of unexpected developments before the film arrives -- a bit too easily -- at the obligatory happy ending. Many of the complications are played for laughs, but there are also poignant moments as the characters wrestle with their feelings about parenthood and commitment. All of the supporting characters -- including Manu's family and his best friend, a doctor with her own maternal agenda -- are well drawn. Wilson, who's appeared in Hollywood movies like as "The Matrix Revolutions," makes an attractive hero. But de Ayala comes close to stealing the picture. At once confused, sensual, selfish and vulnerable, she elicits intense audience empathy.

Although the photography of Paris is fairly stock, the film is well-paced. Everyone pretty much gets what he or she wants by the end of the story, and while the triumphs are too easily earned, the actors and characters are so engaging that we don't begrudge them their bliss.

Screened: City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival
Production: Nord-Ouest Films
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Pascal Elbe, Anne Brochet, Andree Damant, Florence Darel, Marc Duret
Director-screenwriter: Vincent Garenq
Producer: Christophe Rossignon
Director of photography: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Production designer: Yves Brover
Music: Laurent Levesque, Loik Dury
Costume designer: Fanny Drouin
Editor: Dorian Rigal-Ansous
Sales agent: Films Distribution
No MPAA rating, 93 minutes
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