The tightly scripted world of a vlogger and influencer (Noémie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) unravels after she becomes a mother, in noted playwright Bess Wohl’s feature debut.
Jo (Noémie Merlant) is a young lifestyle influencer with the kind of renovated home, handsome husband (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington), and picture-perfect, aspirational nursery that make her followers envy her. Typically in control of herself and everyone in her radius, Jo prepares for the arrival of her baby, Ruby, by planning her own flawless baby shower and vlogging every step along the way. Soon, however, the chaos of postpartum recovery and new motherhood throws Jo’s routines and relationships into disarray.
The neighbourhood moms are friendly but travel in a pack — ever-present in a way that mimics the omnipotence of social media — effortlessly keeping their babies happy, diligently working on their “snap-back” bodies, and offering a flailing Jo platitudes on the joys of children. Jo’s husband notices her struggling but is at a loss as to how to help. When her mother-in-law (Jayne Atkinson) tries to share her own harrowing experience as a new parent, Jo wonders if she is trying to support or sabotage her. More importantly, why does Ruby seem angry with her, lashing out only when they are alone?
Award-winning playwright Bess Wohl’s unsettling filmmaking debut, Baby Ruby depicts a waking fever dream of sleep deprivation amid the impossible expectations placed on motherhood. As Jo, Merlant (TIFF ’19’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Paris, 13th District) gives another intense and fiercely sympathetic performance, this time as a woman who is fighting not to lose herself in her new role.
Content advisory: depictions of postpartum depression and mental distress