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Casa de los Babys | Review

Falling through the Cracks.

Sayles’ newest film essay suffers like Mexico’s slumping economy.

Writer-director John Sayles’ microscopic filmmaking style is far more effective when it comes across as a missing pieces to a puzzle composition such as with his radiant 1996 film Lone Star rather than a slices of a cake portrait that attempts to give us more strong emotions without the full-scale look into the interior and exterior of the film’s characters. His newest film is best summed up as a soul searching assessment that looks at the purpose of life question through a multitude of faces with a socially political sensitivity but brings more of the economic viewpoint to the table.

This estrogen essay is primarily focused on six women Sayles enrolls a dynamic cast with Lili Taylor (High Fidelity), Mary Steenburgen (Sunshine State), Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary), Daryl Hannah (Northfolk), and Susan Lynch (From Hell) as future moms to be from the downright simple to downright I’m happy and looking for a Latino kid to dress up in clothes from the Gap type of characters from Western countries with better bottled water and public restrooms. Casa de los Babys presents us nameless community (obviously apparent that it is Mexico) which strives on the hard currency of foreigners to provide a better life for their people in-exchange for no-name newborn babies waiting to be rolled out of the factory. As a whole this describes the process showing how they children are produced by lack of birth-control, are kept in safe keeping of enterprising individuals who find easy buyers. It is the rejects, those who don’t have that chance as in the paint-sniffing abandoned child with little hope for a future whose story seems to make the bigger point but then we become to busy with a series of endless monologues about the meaning of life to care about what we saw in the sequence before.

Sayles leaves out a more complete narrative and pushes his vision in an exposé style looking at among other things economic realities and morally questionable procedures. Sayles’ big vision and short run time cuts short from revealing true depths in its characters, each have their moment to shine but this acts as a one spokesman women piece rather than individual ringing inside-you authentic characterizations. There are perhaps too many personal events going on here left to be deciphered within the moment without recourse in knowing how it helps in identifying the film’s tone. Sequences such as the tour guide without a job, the alcohol anonymous bit, the exchange between two mothers not understanding one-another or the open-ended final scene do little for the arch of the picture and suggest that an aimless plot is more about showing the subject matters rather than investigating theme at depth. Whatever good performances come from seem to be dissolve with Sayles particular method of storytelling, perhaps he should have cut down the many stories. I disliked this volleyball match feeling I got from the visuals, where the set-up of each camera shot follows the flow of the dialogue making the film an especially challenging structure of circles of friends speaking all at once.

With too many characters and character motivations to focus on, you’ll find it hard to feel the deeper internal issues which are close to reach the surface, instead this is a collage of issues hardly pushed the way in which we could appreciate the most. After almost 20 years of wiring and directing, Casa de los Babys will not be remembered as a highlight among Sayles’ own filmography.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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