THE SURROGATE movie poster | ©2020 Monument Releasing

THE SURROGATE movie poster | ©2020 Monument Releasing

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Jasmine Batchelor, Chris Perfetti, Sullivan Jones, Brooke Bloom, Eboni Booth, William DeMerritt, Tonya Pinkins, Brandon Micheal Hall, Meg Gibson
Writer: Jeremy Hersh
Director: Jeremy Hersh
Distributor: Monument Releasing
Release Date: June 12, 2020

THE SURROGATE starts out seeming like it’s going to be a bubbly dramedy, only to take an abrupt turn. Director/writer Jeremy Hersh takes time to examine and dramatize almost every conceivable point of view in ways that keep us riveted.

Brooklyn web designer Jess (Jasmine Batchelor) doesn’t want to be tied down. Though sometime-boyfriend Nate (Brandon Micheal Hall) is eager for something more, even if it’s wholly on Jess’s terms, she’s scared by his need for commitment and put off by his availability. However, Jess is entirely comfortable being a pregnancy surrogate for her best friends, gay couple Josh (Chris Perfetti) and Aaron (Sullivan Jones).

The pregnancy takes; all three are overjoyed. And then DNA testing shows there’s an issue. Jess takes it upon herself to learn what she can, going so far as to hang out at a community center that caters to children with the condition, and trying to befriend two very different women there. As Jess is forced to examine her beliefs and desires and what she is and isn’t willing to give up for her convictions, everyone around her feels they have a personal stake in what she decides.

One of the things that’s so welcome about THE SURROGATE, and that makes us trust its storytelling, is that filmmaker Hersh jumps into every scene right when it’s getting interesting. There’s no beating around the bush, no lulls while people wander around. Sure, they fix food and take coats and move, but we’re always aware they’re dying to ask questions or make complaints or ask for support. There’s suspense and frequent surprise in practically every interaction.

Hersh creates a documentary feel that is readily served by the performers, especially the terrific Batchelor and the sensitive Perfetti. Hall is charming as the affectionate Nate. There’s a feeling of life actually being lived in front of the camera.

THE SURROGATE movie poster | ©2020 Monument Releasing

THE SURROGATE movie poster | ©2020 Monument Releasing

But what may be even more impressive about THE SURROGATE is how the film shows us how what seems like a personal choice has a ripple effect on everyone. This isn’t an abortion discussion – THE SURROGATE and all the main characters are firmly pro-choice – but rather an exploration of race, sexuality, religion, class, social structure, and more. We also get details that most movies wouldn’t even think about. There’s a mother (Brooke Bloom, understated and superb) who wants to be helpful, but resents having her experience be used as reference, pro or con, by a near-stranger. Another woman (Meg Gibson) may or may not have mythologized aspects of her own life to cope.

THE SURROGATE grapples with enormous issues, but frames them in characterizations so specific that we see that a different group of people, dealing with exactly the same questions, might reach vastly different conclusions. It’s intelligent, thoughtful, and about human beings we can both recognize and believe in.

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