“False Positive” is a psychological thriller movie which attempts to explore the female fear and anxiety on pregnancy. Clearly reminiscent of “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), the movie is creepy and interesting enough to hold our attention during its first two acts, but then it stumbles more than once during the rather jumbled third act, and that is a shame considering some good efforts from its cast and crew members.
The story is mainly told through the viewpoint of Lucia “Lucy” Martin (Ilana Glazer), a promising female copywriter living with her surgeon husband Adrian (Justin Theroux) in New York City. While their married life has been affluent and comfortable as reflected by their slick modern apartment, they have actually been struggling to have a baby during last two years, and there has not been any success yet to their disappointment.
And then there comes a good news for them. Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), a renowned fertility expert who has been running a prestigious women’s clinic in the city, is willing to help them as Adrian’s old mentor, and, with the full support from her husband, Lucy gets herself examined at Hindle’s clinic and then inseminated via his state-of-the-art technique.
It does not take much for Lucy to find that she finally gets her wish, but it turns out to be quite more than she wanted. She is pregnant with no less than three fetuses, and Dr. Hindle suggests that she should made a certain choice for guaranteeing safe pregnancy and birth. Although she understandably hesitates at first, Lucy eventually comes to make the decision on that, and her husband respects her decision despite his initial reservation.
During next several months, everything seems to be going pretty well for Lucy and her husband, but Lucy cannot help but feel wrong about her pregnancy. Her husband and Dr. Hilton assure her that she is simply going through prenatal depression, and one of her new friends she encounters at a meeting of pregnant women also tells her that there is nothing to worry about, but she still frequently becomes nervous and agitated, while also suspecting something fishy from her husband as well as Dr. Hilton.
As its heroine is slowly mired in inexplicable fear and anxiety, the movie begins to toy with the insidious possibilities surrounding her pregnancy. There is a brief hallucinogenic moment which is definitely influenced by the infamous nightmare sequence in “Rosemary’s Baby”, and we also get several morbid moments which will make us have some reasonable doubt on the reliability of Lucy’s increasingly unstable viewpoint. Is she just going through a very serious case of prenatal depression? Or, are her husband and Dr. Hilton really planning something diabolical behind their back?
Meanwhile, the movie also tries to mix a number of different elements into the story, though many of them are disappointingly underdeveloped on the whole. The subplot involved with Lucy’s workplace could illuminate more of how difficult it is for women to balance herself between work and pregnancy, but this part is eventually put aside without much afterthought. In case of the part associated with a well-known midwife who may help Lucy more than Dr. Hilton, it is so superficially handled that a revelation around the end of the story does not feel like a surprise at all, though the movie makes a little sharp point on a certain stereotype.
Anyway, director/co-writer/co-producer John Lee and his crew members did a fairly good job of imbuing the screen with a considerable degree of uneasiness and insidiousness. The last act does not wholly work, and the predetermined ending is not as strong as intended, but several competent aspects of the movie including the cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski, who previously collaborated with Ari Aster in “Hereditary” (2018) and “Midsommar” (2019), still engage us even at that point.
Although I am not that familiar with her TV sitcom series “Broad City”, Ilana Glazer, who also co-produced and co-wrote the film along with Lee, is a good performer as far as I can see from the movie, and she ably conveys to us her character’s trembling state of mind along the story. Even as we come to question more of what is presented through her character’s viewpoint, Glazer’s solid performance still keeps us on the edge, and she steadily supports the film right up to its very last shot.
Several other performers surrounding Glazer are also well-cast in their respective roles. While Justin Theroux is suitable as a husband who may not be totally honest with his wife, Gretchen Mol is as cheerfully creepy as required by her character, and Zainab Jah and Sophia Bush bring some personality to their rather thankless supporting roles. In case of Pierce Brosnan, he wisely underplays his character as subtly suggesting what may lie beneath his character’s confident benevolence, and it is evident that he is clearly enjoying every juicy moment given to him.
Although it is not satisfying enough for recommendation, “False Positive” is not entirely without interesting stuffs at least. The overall result is merely disturbing and uncomfortable without enough dramatic impact to linger on me, and I wish it went further with its pulpy aspects, but I will not deny that I had a fair share of entertainment during my viewing.