Casa De Los Babys

Different roads have led the sextet staying at the rundown hotel the locals call Casa De Los Babys to come thousands of miles to adopt a child. Nan (Marcia Gay Harden) was once more concerned with her job that she waited until her forties to have a child, finding herself unable to concieve despite a number of fertility treatments. Skipper (Daryl Hannah) has had several miscarriages. Leslie (Lili Taylor) is a single woman in New York who doesn’t want to be bothered with something as mundane as pregnancy. Gayle (Mary Steenburgen) is post-menopausal and is looking to have another child in her home. Eileen (Susan Lynch) emotional desire to have a child far outweighs her financial ability to have one. And Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) seemingly has it all: financial security, a respected businessman husband and much love to share.

When we are first introduced to these women, they have all been in country for several weeks (the country requires a lengthy residence of adoptive parents) with no particular end in sight for any of their cases. Some of the women spend their days discovering the beauty and pain within their new surroundings, while Eileen mostly keeps to her room. But Nan is most intent on getting a child as quickly as possible, not caring who she crosses to get what she wants.

Additionally, we also see the situation from the other side, the abject poverty conditions many of the town’s citizens live in. Senora Munoz (Rita Moreno) relies on these women to keep her hotel open, so she tries to provide the best service for her guests. Her son Buho proclaims himself a revolutionary, wishing to blow these touristas up for being a part of the economic imperialism which helped create his country’s poverty, but requires the modest income which comes with being the hotel repairman for his own survival. A young boy, no more than eight, tries to survive just one more day on the streets.

There are no easy answers in “Casa De Los Babys,” as the film helps confirm a number of ideas and concepts many people are unable to accept. Are any of these people, from the would-be mothers and their potential adopted children to the locals, any better off at the endr Surely, there will be as many answers as there will be people who see this film, and I am not quite sure I am comfortable with my own.

On the technical side, the film looks and sounds beautiful. Longtime Sayles associate Mason Daring continues to show why he is one of cinema’s underrated composers. The cinematography by Maurizio Rubinstein aptly conveys the beauty and pain of the film’s locations (shot in Mexico).

Several weeks after seeing the film, and hours before it opens in limited release, I am still contemplating its meanings and messages, which very few films today do to me. “Casa De Los Babys” is an inarguably powerful film, but I can’t help but feel the normally brilliant Sayles remained too emotionally unattached to these characters to make a truly stunning work, delivering a guttural blow at the end which rings somewhat empty.

Still, the film deserves to be seen and the topics it tackles deserve a platform for discussion. I give “Casa De Los Babys” an A for effort and a B- for execution.

Rating: B-