Tribeca Film Festival 2021: False Positive (2021) – Film Review

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A24‘s False Positive is glossy psychological thriller conceived as a Rosemary’ Baby for the IVF generation.

After months of trying and failing to get pregnant, Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) finally find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). But after becoming pregnant with a healthy baby girl, Lucy begins to notice something sinister through Hindle’s gleaming charm, and she sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about him, and her own “birth story.” As if getting pregnant weren’t complicated enough…

On paper, Lucy has it all with the exception of a child. A charming husband, beautiful apartment and a marketing job where she has just been given a huge opportunity to shine.

Yet all of it is seemingly conditional on the whims of patriarchy. Her husband is prone to manipulation and gaslighting. Despite securing a big account at work she is still expected to get the lunch order for the male-dominated office. So when she is presented with the opportunity to become pregnant (tellingly we never discover if it is a problem with Lucy or Adrian), of course the person who can determine her future is a man.

Pierce Brosnan goes from James Bond to Doctor No Baby, No Problem with an effective turn that is equal parts charming and creepy.

As her pregnancy progresses, Lucy starts to become suspicious of the circumstances and methods surrounding her fertilisation. She begins having intense dreams and hallucinations. Questioning the motives of those closest to her. Glazer to her credit does a convincing job as a woman on the verge of losing her mind at the expense of gaining a child. When she attempts to raise her concerns, it is passed off as pre-partum depression or “mommy brain”. Is she falling into hysteria or is she the victim of gaslighting?

There are the makings of a great psychological horror. Focusing on the experience from Lucy’s POV allows the ambiguity over what is real and what is not to flourish. Unfortunately the characters are severely underwritten. There is no real sense of the couple’s struggle up to that point. Plus Theroux’s Adrian is clearly a wrong ‘un from the start. Also the way it has been shot and edited feels more akin to a early 90s glossy domestic thriller like Sleeping With The Enemy. This only serves to make the tonal shift in the third act all the more jarring and unconvincing. The only one who seems to know what film they are making is Brosnan, with his performance feeling at one with the material.

False Positive is bursting with ideas and talent but ultimately let down by the delivery.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Director: John Lee
Stars: Justin Theroux, Ilana Glazer, Sophia Bush, Pierce Brosnan
Runtime: 92 minutes
Country: USA

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