- Emma Simmonds
- 5 July 2021
Jasmine Batchelor is superb in this debate-driven and emotionally credible US indie from Jeremy Hersh
Expertly exploring the thorniest of issues, The Surrogate is a small but beautifully formed US indie from debut feature filmmaker Jeremy Hersh, with a star-making turn at its centre from newcomer Jasmine Batchelor. Sporting credibility in spades and managing to consider things from all sides, it firmly places you in the shoes of its protagonist as she finds herself in a predicament with no easy answers.
Set in New York, the film follows African American web designer Jess (Batchelor) as she agrees to be a surrogate and egg donor for her married friends Josh and Aaron (Chris Perfetti and Sullivan Jones). This fastidiously moral and socially conscious young woman quickly falls pregnant and seems to be taking the sacrifice in her stride but, when a prenatal test reveals that the baby is likely to be born with Down's syndrome, the trio's amicable arrangement begins to falter. Unsure of the best course of action, Jess seeks advice from her family, as well as specialist support groups and the spiky mother of a child with Down's, Bridget (Brooke Bloom), who Jess slightly hounds into helping her.
By stripping away the score and keeping the visuals distinctly unflashy, The Surrogate keeps us focused on the issues and dynamics at play, boasting complex reactions and distinct and believable characters; from the supporting cast, Perfetti's Josh and Bloom's Bridget feel particularly plausible.
But it's the character of Jess which makes the film fly; superbly brought to life by Batchelor, you can see her worries forming and mind constantly whirring, while Jess's earnest intentions and interrogatory nature means it feels reasonable for her to go round challenging and provoking other characters into revealing their own thoughts. She's so desperate to come to the right decision, whatever that is, it allows Hersh to rigorously work the material in a film that both engages and illuminates impressively.
Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 9 July.