The Pill (2006) – By David Stephenson

 Michelle Goetsch has made something interesting here with her latest directorial effort The Pill. This is a short film (merely 16mins run time) which investigates an amazing range of emotions, situations, and the taxing effects the issues of loss, control and maternity can have on the human spirit, as well as the mental health of those involved.

Michelle also takes the lead in this piece, thrusting herself into the limelight as Rachel Larson, a woman pushed to the edge of euphoria by the sudden good news of the seed she carries inside of her. The pregnancy test is blue. She’s over the moon, ready to embark upon the life-changing adventure that is raising a second child.

But yet while she basks in the warm glow of her own bliss, those around her seem almost sedated, detached, as if watching her ecstasy from afar. There’s a distance, a disillusionment which follows her like a shadow wherever she goes – while excited about her good news, she is greeted with nothing but empty stares and disbelief from the medical professionals who examine her. And, as we soon discover, there’s a reason for the heightened sense of dread and apathy – despite a battery of tests showing signs of pregnancy, sonograms detect no sign of life in her expanded womb. No baby to be seen. Nothing but emptiness inside. A truly delicious metaphor which overshadows this short piece with grim satisfaction from start to finish.

And so the mystery is set – is this a conspiracy? A sick joke? Perhaps the delusional imagination of an obsessed woman pushed beyond breaking point? Perhaps this is a medical miracle, something of an uncanny blessing? Only examination of this unusual and challenging short piece will tell. It’s a truly mouth-watering prospect, deftly written by… Michelle Goetsch… again (a woman of many talents it seems.)

The way in which the film is shot proves to be very interesting, as the entire supporting cast look upon our brave heroine with suspicion and contempt. There’s a whole ethereal quality to the movie, as if we are witnessing a bizarre dream or some kind of impossible nightmare scenario. As the circumstances become furthermore detached from the confines of reality (although this is very subtly done) the mystery heightens. An excellent premise, let down perhaps only by the lack of medical ethics and slight implausibility of the resulting conclusion. But enough of that. I sure as shit don’t want to ruin this one for you. Anticipation is the height of good taste after all…

A well-written piece with certainly enough emotional backdrop to make the most ambitious of producers wet themselves with glee anticipation, this is definitely an interesting concept, let down sadly in areas in its execution. The problems come with not what we see on our screens, but the way in which it is portrayed. The performance by our leading male, the doubting husband (played here by Paul Hewitt) is above average but by no means breathtaking. While his delivery of the role, the depth of his roots within the character and his presence on screen are totally adequate for the role, they lack panache or any real memorable punch. He seems realistic in this role, but without at all exploring the role for all it could provide. A shame given the material involved.

Michelle Goetsch’s portrayal of our boisterous leading gal is obviously a very difficult task to undertake, given the emotional range and sheer complexity involved. However the story is pretty much the same here, as once again the performance is functional and adequate, but lacking in the spectacular. While I believed in what she was doing, I was never really grabbed by what I saw. Again, a shame given the delicious complexities the role brings to the table.

Perhaps it’s the short running time of the feature which limits the cast in their performances, not allowing them enough screen time to really explore the depth of character available to them. Then again, I’m not convinced that a longer running time is what the film needs, given the open-and-shut nature of the script, the way it was written.

The negatives by no means out-weigh the positives though, and The Pill remains a strong and enticing bit of cinema. While not exactly a breathtaking ground breaker, it certainly provides room for thought and shows a great deal of promise from all those involved.

If you’d like to find out more about this film you can check out the film’s website at http://www.thepillmovie.com.