A review of Babycall / The Monitor by Cassie I.Taylor On Twitter at @ctaylor / Cassie’s site is celluloidjunkie.wordpress.com

The Monitor (aka Babycall) is a film I wanted to like. It was one of those films I immediately slipped into my Netflix queue and then patiently waited for. There’s always that moment, however, when the red envelope finally arrives and the reluctance bubbles up. There’s this great Bertrand Russell quote about the secret to finding happiness. I’ve found it particularly insightful when viewing films:

“The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

It is with this nugget of wisdom that today, Christmas 2012, I decided to brew a cup of coffee and finally watch Noomi Rapace in The Monitor.

Fleeing from an abusive ex-husband with her 8-year old son in tow, Anna is a lonely, anxious woman who appears at any moment ready to completely unravel. Stashed away in a large, institutional-looking high rise far from her ex, Anna tries desperately to conform to the rules and wishes of the two child services agent assigned her case. But every night, filled with dread and fear, and against the orders of the agents, she takes her son, Anders (played by Vetle Qvenild Werring), into her room and holds him close to her. Anna is determined that nothing (and I mean nothing) will separate them. Nothing. Together, the two reluctantly, fitfully, fall asleep.

Against her better judgment, the child service agents demand Anders attend school. After dropping Anders off for his first day, Anna is run off school grounds and told not to loiter. She hesitantly boards a bus and ends up at an electronics store where a man, Helge (Kristoffer Joner), who she has only just run into on the bus, assists her in purchasing a baby monitor.

Using the monitor, Anna begins hearing the screams of a child. Despite being reassured that the range of the monitor is relatively limited, and unable to immediately locate the source, Anna begins to slowly lose hold on what is real and what isn’t. She loses hours, then days. She sees a body being loaded into a van. She sees lakes where others see parking lots. In short, Anna is coming unhinged.

Anna’s plight calls to mind a quote from 12 Monkeys: “I am mentally divergent, in that I am escaping certain unnamed realities that plague my life here. When I stop going there, I will be well.”

The problem with Anna is, throughout the grueling 96 minute run time of The Monitor, she is never able to “stop going there,” and hence, never becomes well.

The Monitor is not a typical, glossy psychological thriller. Many viewers will have already worked out the plot before the filmmaker’s have finished setting everything up. It’s slow pacing is deliberate (and at times, painfully boring) and there is no payoff for the viewer who comes out the other end.

Rapace, however, is sharp and precise. Her performance is solid and true, making the film definitely worth your attempt at watching it.


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