Taormina Film Festival

TAORMINA, Italy -- A supposedly satirical look at assisted reproduction, the storyline to Mary McGuckian's "Inconceivable" stays true to its title. And its visual concept -- fast-paced editing, fragmented audio and sound superimposition/effects and sped-up and slowed-down images straight from "CSI" -- ensures that the film never loses its television feel.

Although full of biological inaccuracies, the film demands that its underlying drama be taken seriously as it negates the very women that make up its core audience. Nine women go to a renowned Las Vegas fertility clinic run by Doctor Freeman (Colm Feore) and miraculously all but one end up pregnant. The ninth and least fertile (Jennifer Tilly), however, winds up naturally pregnant shortly thereafter.

A year later, when comparing baby pictures, one of the women, Tutu (Elizabeth McGovern), notices that most of the children could be identical twins. A seasoned journalist, she blows the whistle on their fertility group and an investigation begins. Did Freeman or his assistant (Jordi Molla) give them all the same sperm to bolster his clinic's success rate and continue raking in the dough? Should the beneficiaries even care or just be happy that they finally got the miracle no one else could grant them?

To add to the pathos, the stories run the gamut of the human spectrum -- a gay couple with a surrogate mother, a lesbian couple, a wealthy elderly woman (Geraldine Chaplin) who must produce an heir to keep her husband's trust fund and various middle-aged women (from meek to wild) desperate to become mothers.

The mystery is solved by simply tossing the workings of DNA (children get 50% of their chromosomes from the mother and the other half from the father) to the wayside -- i.e., by the existence of a "super sperm that out-spermed all the other sperm." Thus, women are nothing more than carriers who bear no influence on the physical appearance of their children. With so many valid and complex ethical, emotional and dramatic questions related to artificial insemination, was creating a physiologically impossible situation really necessary?

What is saddest here is that a female cast that further includes Amanda Plummer and Andie McDowell should be so wasted. It would have been more interesting to see these women, now grappling with their own issues of reaching or surpassing middle age, sink their teeth into material on aging and motherhood with much more depth. 

Production companies: Pembridge Pictures, Scion Films, Prospero Pictures. Cast: Colm Feore, Jennifer Tilly, Elizabeth McGovern, Andie McDowell, Amanda Plummer, Jordi Molla, Geraldine Chaplin, Lothaire Bluteau. Screenwriter/Director: Mary McGuckian. Producer: McGuckian, Jeff Abberley, Martin Katz. Director of Photography: Mark Wolf. Production designer: Max Gottlieb. Music: Kevin Banks. Costume Designer: Sally O'Sullivan. Editor: David Freemantle. 105 minutes.
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