By Don Morton
The child within
February 6, 2024
Okay, the next sentence is not a spoiler, as it’s pretty much the first thing that happens in this odd and wonderful film. It’s about a grown woman with the brain of a child. Literally.
A brilliant, unconventional scientist (Willem Dafoe) who specializes in crafting freakish cross-species creatures receives the body of a pregnant suicide victim, plops the fetus’ brain into the woman’s cranium and then reanimates his masterpiece.
The complex and unpredictable role of Bella Baxter has to be the juiciest female lead of the year, I’m not saying Emma Stone is the only one who could do it; I just can’t imagine anyone doing it better. She’s totally fearless. (She also has a producer’s credit.)
You see, it’s way more than Emma’s Rain Man, i.e. an adult acting like a child. Because, as brains will do, her character evolves and changes, constantly presenting those around her, both friends and those seeking to take advantage of her (enter opportunistic cad Mark Ruffalo), with a tabula rasa of fresh challenges. She describes herself at one point as, “a changeable feast.”
Let’s do the adjectives: philosophically thought-provoking, visually striking, whimsically profound, batshit crazy, mordantly funny, stylishly steampunk, joyfully bawdy, delightfully amoral and a heartwarmingly fantastical feminist fairy tale.
It’s nothing less than a psycho-sexual metaphor for the human condition and living authentically. Every frame of this movie is so stuffed with surprises, laughs, shocks and delights that it’s an instant classic and a must-see, a bloody great time at the movies.
An adaptation of a novel by the late Alasdair Gray, this is also a career-best for Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, and this is the guy who’s given us The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite, so that’s saying something. Eleven Oscar noms.
Check it out now in theaters.