Casa de los Babys (2003)
Motherhood can be one of life’s joys, but it is also fraught with trials and tribulations. But what about the path to motherhood itself? It’s not always smooth and easy. This film (written, directed, & edited by indie filmmaker John Sayles) concerns a modern/controversial issue- foreign adoption. As with Sayles’ other films, Casa de los Babys is for thinking people. No character is one-sided. Each actor gets a scene (or two) to shine.
Somewhere in Latin (or South) America, 6 women wait in the same hotel (nicknamed by locals as la casa de los babys) for their chance to be a mother. (This film was shot in Acapulco, Mexico.) The women don’t have much in common, hailing from different states and backgrounds. But the women hang out at the beach, shop in the bazaar, see the sights, and share meals together. They discuss future plans for their babies. Who has the best ideas on how to raise a child? Who has the most potential to be a positive/nurturing mother?
Skipper (Daryl Hannah) is a statuesque/serene woman from Colorado who works out often and speaks little. Gayle (Mary Steenburgen) is a soft-spoken/born-again Christian/Southerner who seeks to mediate conflicts between the group members. Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a wealthy 24 y.o. from DC who’s nervous and missing her husband terribly. Eileen (Susan Lynch) is a sweet/thoughtful Irish immigrant to Boston who’s pinching pennies b/c her hubby is out of work. Nan (Marcia Gay Harden) is a Kansan who holds strong (and often offensive) opinions. She’s ticked off b/c she’s beein waiting longer than the rest (2 mos.) for her baby. Leslie (Lily Taylor) is a single, 30 y.o. editor from NYC who speaks Spanish and is brimming w/ sarcarstic humor. Though still young, she’s “done the relathionship thing,” and wants to “get on with the kid thing.”
Besides the Americans, there are several other interesting characters. Senora Munoz (Rita Moreno) is the tough/determined owner of the hotel who worries re: her ex-con son. Senora Munoz’s brother Ernesto (Pedro Armendariz) is the forthright lawyer who helps the Americans w/ their adoption paperwork. Asuncion (Vanessa Martinez; the teen Pilar in Sayles’ Lone Star) is the hardworking young maid at the hotel who supports her younger siblings; they are orphans who live in the mountaineous region above the beach. Diomedes is a gentle/educated man who wants to go to the US b/c there is no work locally. He gives Skipper and Jennifer a little tour, as he has nothing else to do. A little homeless boy (around 7 or 8 y.o.) wanders the streets of the town washing windshields and looking to make money. (To me, he is a sad reminder that older kids are rarely adopted.)
Law & Order: UK (Season 1)
Dick Wolf has transported his successful NYC-based Law & Order TV series “across the pond” to London. All of the Season 1 episodes (13 on 3 discs) were based on shown-on-TV L&O episodes. (Long-time fans will recognize this right away!) The producer took various scripts and modified them to fit UK law. This show looks wonderful (high production value- like a big-screen movie), is fast-paced, and has top-notch (subtle) acting. The veteran actors have terrific chemistry w/ their younger partners. Some eps are more exciting than others, as w/ other L&O shows.
The Brit detectives are DS (Detective Sergeant) Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh), “a gentle man and gentle cop” who’s a recovering alcoholic/street food lover. Ronnie has a sympathetic ear, talks often re: his 2 exes, and is VERY likeable. His partner is DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Gallactica), a young man of Irish parentage who worked his way up from humble roots. He’s charming and eager to please. While the experienced Ronnie sees a case from many perspectives, Matt is more quick to judge.
The lawyers (called Crown Prosecutors) are James Steel (Ben Daniels), a highly principled/sharp-dressed barrister from the upper crust (w/ posh accent). His intensity, height, and sharp blue eyes may bring to mind actor Michael Moriarty, who played ADA Ben Stone. James wears a wig in court, as is the custom. Judges are referred to as “my lord” or “my lady.” His is supported by Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman from Dr. Who), a young woman who has worked her way up from a council house (like the inner-city projects in US). She performs research and goes through a mountains of paperwork (everything needs to be on hard copy). Alesha is very passionate about the law, like her boss.
London is itself a character in this series. Issues of class, race, and poverty are dealt w/ directly (perhaps more so than in the US). One’s class is usually denoted by one’s accent. (Not all English accents are the same!)
You will see a few British Asian (South Asian/desi) guest actors on L&O: UK. In fact, the CPS barrister who consults on this show is British Asian- Nazir Afzal, director of CPS London South, is well-known for cracking down on “honor” crimes. He has been awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire).