The Surrogate is an exploration of making difficult ethical and emotional decisions. It gives us a situation that doesn’t have a clear correct answer, but does have various perspectives to look at the issues involved. We may have our own ideas of what should happen, but even if we think we have the right answer, we must face facts we may find uncomfortable.
Jess (Jasmine Batchelor) has happily agreed to be egg donor and surrogate for her best friend Josh (Chris Perfetti) and his husband Aaron (Sullivan Jones). The three of them are looking forward to creating a wonderful family. Though, when a test shows that child has Downs Syndrome, that new reality raises a number of questions. But those issues eventually lead to the question of continuing or terminating the pregnancy.
There are various alternative views that we see as the story plays out. Jess is the most active participant in dealing with the questions. She pushes Josh and Aaron to go to a community center focusing on Downs kids. She introduces them to parents. Much of the time Josh and Aaron are very stoic about the situation, or perhaps just hiding their thoughts and feelings. We are really called to identify with Jess in this journey, perhaps because in the end, it must be her decision—after all it’s her body.
There are a variety of issues that come up: a romanticized view of the disabled, the difficulty involved in raising a child with Downs, what we dream of for our children (and if that is really dreams we have for ourselves, and even whether the very question of terminating the pregnancy is eugenics—or if it might actually be the moral thing to do. The film looks at the ideals that people hold, but also at the realities that they face. How we bring those together is an important part of making difficult decisions.
Writer/director Jeremy Hersh does not make this an easy decision. There are no straw men set up to be knocked over. All three of these people are likable. They are all progressive in their outlook. But it is also a personal struggle for all involved. All the perspectives are presented honestly and fairly. And it is clear that emotions are as much a part of the process as facts and logic.
In press notes for the film, Hersh says, “I make movies partly as a way of investigating my own blind spots, in order to hopefully identify them and learn from them.” That is certainly how this film operates for viewers. It puts a complex issue before us and doesn’t let us make a quick choice, bur rather shows us what we might not have thought to look at—or tried to avoid looking at.
The Surrogate is available through Virtual Cinema. Check your local art house’s website.
Photos courtesy of Monument Releasing