Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

After missing mystery/thriller Baby Ruby at 2022’s TIFF, it seemed a long shot that it would be available to watch anytime soon. Starring a post-Game of Thrones Kit Harrington and Portrait of a Lady on Fire/Tár actress Noémie Merlant, an intriguing premise coupled with writer/director Bess Wohl’s directorial debut made this a must-see. I am sad to report that while Baby Ruby is gorgeously filmed and evokes the style of A24 at times, the film is ultimately a misfire leaning too metaphorical for my personal tastes.

In preparing for the birth of her baby daughter, control freak Jo (Merlant) is so invested that she plans and throws her own baby shower. Her loving partner, Spencer (Harrington), remains playful and sweet during these early scenes while Jo is deep in pregnancy mode. Before the arrival of Ruby, it appears that Jo is doing very well for herself vlogging for Love, Josephine—in fact, Jo has helped double their readership!

The first red flags that something may be off come early on—a weird woman at the baby store refuses to let Jo gander at her respective newborn. “You never wake a sleeping baby,” she decries, slapping away Jo’s advances. I was almost getting Hereditary vibes here, and was sure that this woman would reappear later to claim Ruby as her prize. Spencer’s mother seems a bit off as well, later referring to baby Ruby as looking like E.T., and the childbirth itself is portrayed in a haunting, intense manner one would not expect. Much of this can be owed to Bess Wohl’s keen eye and attention to detail.

Post-birth, baby Ruby cries a lot, as newborns are wont to do, yet her behavior begins to take on sinister overtones. Jo starts to become convinced that Ruby is judging her—Ruby is anything but the “perfect” baby everyone else sees. Around others, Ruby is quiet and well-mannered, but alone with Jo, she becomes a menace. Wohl approaches these scenes through the repetition of new parenting, painting Jo as possibly crazed. Ruby bites Jo’s breasts, pulls out her earrings, and makes Jo’s every waking moment into a nightmare. Is there really something wrong with the babe, or is Jo simply experiencing postpartum depression to an absurd degree?

Baby Ruby’s first act is tense and engaging, but the film is unable to sustain momentum for long. As the mystery angle begins to unravel, it loses steam quite quickly. We have seen dreams versus reality so many times at this point that it has now grown stale. Wohl does at least try to do something different with the way postpartum is depicted. A major lack of pizazz and a follow-through of the script’s darker elements is part of what leads to Baby Ruby disappoint. The very concept of a horror film containing subtext about a mother’s intuition is simply brimming with possibilities… it is a shame that Wohl’s vision never arrives at thematically or visually satisfying conclusions.

Baby Ruby crawls out of her crib and into limited release theaters on Friday, February 3rd.

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