Ellis Reed reviews The Midwife, a chilling indie horror by Ryan Gage and Marta Baidek, which recently appeared on Amazon Prime...
As a fan of independent British horror, I always enjoy it when a film I hadn’t heard of suddenly drops on Amazon Prime. For that reason, I watch the new releases like a hawk, and one of my favourite pastimes is finding the wheat among the chaff.
For my money, The Midwife (UK, Marta Baidek – Ryan Gage, 2021) is a nice little bag of wheat. Written by actor-turned-director Ryan Gage, it’s a modestly-scaled feature with an intriguing plot and some nice acting, and I enjoyed it very much.
The heart of the story is the character of Lissie (Lara Goodison) who, after a miscarriage, comes to believe that her unborn child is haunting her. When she gets pregnant a second time, a mysterious midwife (Adeline Waby) becomes a regular fixture at the house, implementing her own unique brand of prenatal care. Also present are hard-working husband Charlie (Jeremy Joyce) and bohemian lodger Kara (Ellie Morris) to complete the dramatis personae.
Waby steals the show as the titular character, but the whole cast are engaging, and the story kept me invested from start to finish. Lara Goodison does a great job as the lead, covering a wide range of emotional ground in eighty minutes. In the dramatic opening, she’s about to kill herself, but someone (or something?) startles her off-screen. We then cut to her and her husband in scenes of goofy domestic bliss, which pose a mystery: have we jumped forward in time, or are we watching a flashback? That alone was enough to carry my interest through the first act and beyond.
Another ingenious device is the ambiguity around the midwife herself. Who she was, and what she was doing, were other riddles that kept me hooked. Was she a force for good or evil? Would the final act reveal her to be a guardian angel or complete bunny boiler? I thought it would be one or the other because the film is called The Midwife, so she wasn’t just there for comic relief – but for the vast majority of the film, I honestly couldn’t say which way the coin would land.
Also, I kept trying to guess whether she was a normal living person or something else entirely. She reminded me of Mary Poppins, so I wanted to know if she was otherworldly or just eccentric. It goes to show that, if you have a handful of actors, a location, and an interesting story, you don’t need a Hollywood budget to keep me entertained. I’ve praised Waby and Goodison, but it’s worth noting that all four of the actors bring value, which a massive boost to a film with one location – in this case, the house – and a handful of faces.
People like different things, so here are some notes on taste. The Midwife certainly isn’t terrifying, so if you want to scare yourself silly – and let’s face it, we sometimes do – you might be underwhelmed for most of the runtime (although the climax could give you a shiver or two!). As for story, your enjoyment of the final act will depend on your appetite for far-fetched twists and turns. To give a bit context, in terms of stretching my credulity, I’d put it on about the same level as an Agatha Christie. I love a bit of Poirot – I’d even like to see him in a murder-mystery-horror mashup – so I really liked where the script went. There was only one moment, right at the very very end, which left me with some questions, but I was happy to chew over those as the credits rolled.
So all in all, I’m glad I took a gamble on The Midwife. Given how many low budget films are either completely derivative or (even worse) totally incoherent, I have to give props to Ryan Gage; he’s come up with an interesting story and structured it in an interesting way, which is the foundation of a good film. Not only that, but the actors and production do it justice. Nice work all round.
You can watch a trailer for The Midwife below.