Acclaimed filmmaker John Sayles captures six American women at one of the most emotionally charged moments of their liveseach on the verge of adopting a babyin this "compelling" (Chicago Tribune) drama set against the back... more »drop of a Latin-American town. Featuring an "inspired" (The Miami Herald) all-star cast, this poignant look at fate, maternity and clashing cultures is "as rich in ideas as it is in fine acting" (Los Angeles Daily News).« less
Jonnie L. from SAN RAFAEL, CA Reviewed on 5/18/2013...
the one thing that got me was not the plight of these "poor women " it was the way they constantly stepped over so many poor children in order to keep their focus on their needs. A baby at what seemed all cost , i remember in the 50"s it was adopt a little indian (native american) baby . a sad movie but not for the reasons you'd think . i love john's movies but this one , missed.
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Complex political and social tale that can be viewed on many
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 06/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Written and directed by John Sayles, this is the story of six women who go to a Latin American country to adopt babies. As in other films by this master of cinema, it is not a simple story with a simple ending. Instead, it is a complex political and social tale that can be viewed on many levels.
There is poverty in the country and hard working people. Many of them work at a luxury hotel, owned by Rita Moreno, now actually 73 years old, speaking only in Spanish and looking very nipped and tucked and prosperous. Her brother is the local lawyer. Her son is a political radical who hates the fact that the babies are being taken away. The six women who must wait several months for their babies come from varied backgrounds and each has her own story to tell. There's Lili Taylor who's tired of waiting for a relationship to blossom and wants to have a baby right away. There's Daryl Hannah, who looks gorgeous and works out and is into massage and health food. Later we find out that she's been through three traumatic birth experiences with babies who just didn't make it. There's Maggie Gyllenhal, who's only 24 years old and has gone through lots of fertility procedures to no avail. There's Susan Lynch, who comes from a large Irish family but who is unable to conceive. There's Mary Steenburgen who is the oldest and most religious of the group and is a former alcoholic. There is also Marcia Gay Harden who is indeed the "ugly American". She complains about everything, tries to bribe the lawyer and comes across as racist. And then there is Vanessa Martinez who plays a chambermaid who has given up a baby for adoption several years before.
Another important element in this film are all the "extras", the real people from Acapulco, where this movie was made. There are also some important small roles given to some of the little boys who live on the street. I found their plight the most heart wrenching of all and wondered what happened to them after the film was made. We see them living in cardboard boxes, washing windshields and stealing. And then we see them sniffing paint thinner. It made the whole subject of cross-cultural adoption even more poignant because if the babies weren't adopted, they would likely wind up like these poor homeless boys. In one scene one of the women gives a child's book to one of the boys. He's easily 8 or 9 years old, but he can only look at the pictures, because, like his companions, he has never learned to read.
We see some flashes of the babies who are waiting for adoption but basically but we never actually get to see them with their new mothers. Wisely, John Sayles stayed away from that kind of syrupy sweetness. Instead, he gave us a hard look at the many perspectives surrounding this film.
There were no less than three 20-minute extra featurettes on the DVD. I learned that the actresses lived together in one big house during the filming and how wonderful that bonding experience was for them. I learned that John Sayles made a massive effort to show the Latin American point of view. In fact, he even mentioned that he had starting thinking about making this film when he made "Men With Guns" which is a chilling film about cruelty and death. Casa de los Babys on the other hand, is poignant in its own way but it addressed many of the same issues. I applaud his sensitivity and the many dimensions he is able to capture through his art. The problem with these three DVD features, however, is that each of them had most of the same footage. I kept watching and watching, hoping that there would be some new material, but it was the essentially the same material, just reworked in different ways. I would suggest therefore, that if you do see the DVD, that watching only one of these small features would be sufficient.
This is a good film. And an important one. It made me think. And that is good."
Presenting the "Big Picture" of Adoption Industry
Tsila Sofer Elguez | Haifa, Israel | 04/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was so deeply immersed in this movie I had a very hard moment when it suddenly ended. The ending might have been at the appropriate time movie wise, but for me it was too fast, without satisfying my curiosity for what happened next. My feeling is also validated by any objective measure as the movie is only 95 minutes long. What does the future hold for these six women and their babies? I remain with my thoughts and guesses built on the information we were given during the film.
"Casa De Los Babys" holds everything I love about movies. A wonderful group of actresses (I admit I was a prejudiced viewer - what can go wrong with such a great group of actresses in a movie about such a feminine issue), a human story where another angel is presented or revealed at each stage of the plot and a beautiful setting. Five of the six characters were able to gain my sympathy (some immediately, some after a while) throughout the movie and the one character that did not, stands out completely and was clearly intended to be brought out this way. Nan, played by Marcia Gay harden is no doubt a character everyone despises although her character might be a little too extreme. The Irish actress Susan Lynch is always a pleasure to watch especially in such an endearing role.
I would like to note that I was mostly surprised and pleased by Daryl Hannah playing "Skipper". This actress never impressed me (except maybe in "Kill Bill"...) but in this movie she manages to deliver a very clear picture of a sensitive woman with an athletic "ice queen" appearance holding much inside. Her secret is exposed in a beautiful scene with Maggie Gyllenhaal playing the rich, somewhat naive Gennifer. This very dramatic scene is a tribute to the acting abilities of both actresses. Skipper is performing a massage to Gennifer who is very clearly uncomfortable with the situation. During their conversation Skipper reveals her past efforts to have a natural child
Another moving scene is when Asuncion, the Latin maid, watches her little sister through the window shields. We only see her eyes but a whole world of feelings is expressed by them.
The six women are waiting for their babies in a foreign land and have no other choice but to be in each other's company. They pass their time touring the area and gossiping about each other. The hottest topic is whetehr this or other woman is worthy of being a mother, and this indeed is what the viewer is also asking himself. However the six women are only part of the whole story. Other semi stories include a group of street children showing us what becomes of these children who were not lucky enough to be adopted, and on the other hand political conversations of the American capitalism and its exploitation of the Latin resources (babies in this case). We are presented with all angels of the baby adoption enterprise and need to draw the conclusions ourselves.
The movie suffers from this surplus of semi plots and characters since it seems the director was more concerned with the "big picture" then with the personal stories which more concern the simple viewer such as myself. Six main characters (each one with enough substance for a seperate tale) and a host of several more sub stories are difficult to present in such a short time. This overflow clearly undermines the outcome.
In any case, a pleasure to watch."
One Of John Sayles Best Films
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 06/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Casa de los Babys" is one of director John Sayles best films. It is about six American women who go to Mexico in order to adopt children. The women are played by; Daryl Hannah (Skipper), Lili Taylor (Leslie), Mary Steenburgen (Gayle), Marcia Gay Harden (Nan), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jennifer), and Susan Lynch (Eileen).
In the opening scene of the movie we see what looks like a hospital with children and a nurse taking care of one of them. The next image we see is of small children sleeping in a carboard box being chased away by a man who claims the box is his. And finally we meet the women how are waiting for a baby. When you see all three scenes played out together it has quite an impact. First we have helpless children who are being taken care of, then we see children who have no one, and women who want to take care of children but our stuck in red tape. Sayles keeps shuffling these images around in our heads until the point where I started to think the movie's supports the actions taken by these women. Because, if these women don't take these children, what kind of life is in store for them anyway?
"Casa de los Babys" though tries to present both sides of the issue. We see the reaction some people have to the idea of Americans coming over and taking their children. One man asks, how would they (Americans) feel if we came over and took their children. And then we see small chidlren playing with used condoms, and wondering where they are going to sleep.
But the movie doesn't present these women as imperialist. As the movie goes on we slowly start to gather who these women are. Sayles has written some truly heartbreaking moments as some of the women describe their failed attempts at having a baby. One woman lost three at childbirth. They are not trying to take advantage of anyone. They merely want to have children to take care of and love.
Sayles, with such movies as "Sunshine State" and "City of Hope" reminds me of Robert Altman. Both men like t make these large ensemble pieces where they juggle around various characters who in unexpected ways impact one another's lives. It's a hard kind of movie to make but Sayles always seems more than ready to perform the task. If you haven't seen one of Sayles' movies, I'm not sure this is the place to start but even so, I doubt many people will say they were not somewhat touched by the movie.
As I watched one of the special features on the DVD it seems the movie is against the action of people from one country coming to adopt children from another. But I don't think Sayles reaches his objective. I had the opposite reaction.
Bottom-line: One of John Sayles best films. The acting by the cast is great with Hannah, Gyllenhaal, and Lynch standing out to me. A very touching warm movie."
A Movie that is not a Movie
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Sayles has a way of taking the filters off our civilization that allows us to observe the people around us in a casual manner without any of the clutter of the 'Hollywood take'. His movies deal with real issues, issues that most people would not think fodder for an interesting film or even story. But with Sayles integrity, his films offer the opportunity to 'overhear' as a hidden observer issues that are usually avoided. Some of his other films - 'Lone Star', 'Secret of Road Inish', 'Passion Fish', 'Lianna', and the much underrated 'Sunshine State', among others - have dealt with one-on-one relationships. In CASA DE LOS BABYS Sayles manages to gather six women waiting in Latin America for a baby to adopt, living in a hotel under the hard thumb control of Rita Moreno (always a joy to see in film!). The women are all unique in their desires to adopt, their backgrounds, their expectations, their inner turmoil and their facades, and Sayles quietly and without much hoopla lets us just observe the playing out of their lives as they wait for their 'new babies'. The story works beautifully, largely due (in addition to the direction and writing) to the quality of performances of the cast: Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Lili Taylor, and Susan Lynch. And the Latin women who represent the other side of this quasi- legal adoption agency stance are equally well cast. This is a sleeper movie but one that will say with you long after the quiet credits have completed their role down."