Baby Ruby starts with a happily pregnant Jo (Noémie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) awaiting the arrival of her first child. As soon as she brings the eponymous child home, something feels wrong. Ruby is always crying around her mother, but is easily calmed by others. All the other moms in the neighborhood also want to be Jo’s new friend. She realizes she must do everything possible to protect herself and her newborn.
The movie works hard to establish the horror of being a new mother in various ways. There is Jo’s fear that her family has darker plans for her child mixed in with the comments and “advice” made by people around her. Baby Ruby even delves into more visual terrors like a painful breastfeeding scene and some interesting recipes. On top of everything else, Jo is trying to balance her career as vlogger and a new mother.
Baby Ruby does an excellent job of making the audience feel the what Jo is going through. The constant cries of the baby will begin to wear down those watching and it is hard not feel for Jo as she crumbles over the course of the film. Those closest to her are watching her breakdown, but not doing nothing to help her out. It is as frustrating as it is terrifying.
Merlant once again displays her great acting skills. There is a wide range of emotions, but she also brings nuance. A running theme is whether or not Jo’s experiences are typical for new mothers. As Baby Ruby progresses, it becomes clear things are different in Jo’s case, but it is Merlant’s strong performance that makes things more than just another motherhood horror picture.
As compelling of a character study Baby Ruby provides, it struggles to make the story as captivating. There are some clever moments, but it is Merlant that is the true draw here. This leads to someone that is interesting to watch, but an ending that falls flat.
Baby Ruby comes to theaters and on demand February 3
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