Chuck Chuck Baby follows Helen, a very quiet and reserved woman, and her struggles to make ends meet while sharing her home with an indifferent husband, his younger girlfriend, and a wailing infant. She looks after her elderly mother-in-law and finds solace in music while working night hours at a chicken processing business.
Joanne, Helen’s childhood crush and an old neighbor, moves back to the neighborhood after her father’s passing. They bond fast and, in time, sparks of romance flair up between them. While Joanne values Helen’s innocence, Helen sees Joanne as a model of bravery. However, Helen’s chaotic home life and strife at work put their relationship in jeopardy. Janis Pugh, a writer and filmmaker, explores themes of female strength and social support using humour and unintentional musical interludes, illuminating how art can inspire bravery.
Chuck Chuck Baby skillfully examines the challenges of being a queer person in a small-town setting. Joanne’s return to her birthplace is examined in the film in a devastating and touching way, showing the long-lasting impact of homophobia on the psychological well-being of an individual. Joanne’s struggle with embracing her identity is evident, and her 20-year separation from her native town has allowed her to finally be honest about her feelings for Helen. Helen also carries the wounds of homophobia in a small town, preferring to live in the dark to keep herself protected and even being in an intimate relationship with an extremely bigoted man. The movie beautifully illustrates Helen’s patient journey towards self-acceptance, and Louise Brealey’s performance of Helen shines for its understated authenticity. The intense chemistry between Brealey and Annabel Scholey conveys both excitement and trepidation as they finally achieve their long-awaited love.
Chuck Chuck Baby is playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.