TIFF15 REVIEW: Benjamin [2015]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Canada)
Studio: Canadian Film Centre
Director(s): Sherren Lee

“She lived her life without pain. At least there’s that.”

Very few things are more dramatically impossible to fathom than losing a child, but Sherren Lee‘s Benjamin goes one step further to make it so. Written by Kathleen Hepburn, the story centers on a lesbian couple—both of who are pregnant. Sophie (Kimberly Laferriere) carries their little girl while Dell’s (Joanne Boland) boy is promised to their best friends, Teddy (Jean-Michel Le Gal) and Cal (Jimi Shlag). Everything moves forward perfectly until pain suddenly runs through Sophie to ensure nothing can remain the same. The loss is staggering and all four feel it. What then can be done? For months Teddy and Cal have held Dell’s unborn boy as theirs just as she had. But while giving him up wasn’t a problem when she knew she’d have a child of her own, that was no longer the case.

What transpires is an emotional roller coaster from joy to sorrow to hopeful optimism to absolute depression. The dialogue and attitudes are one hundred percent authentic whether Cal admitting to his husband that he was relieved the baby they agreed would be theirs didn’t die instead or Teddy’s complete inability to hear the girls’ trying to explain why they needed to void the contract they drew up. It’s all the more moving courtesy of the relationship this quartet shares too. This isn’t some womb for hire where lawyers or adoption agencies can get involved—this is for all intents and purposes family. The agreement was made because they’d all be in both children’s lives. The fact one would live with the girls and one the boys wasn’t so regimented an idea until only a single child was left.

The performances are powerful; the circumstances unlike anything you could imagine. Anger enters the equation even if everyone knows they’re all only doing what they feel they must. Heads are simultaneously screwed on tightly towards each other but fully dislodged in a blindsiding nightmare where the baby is concerned. There’s a fine line between not letting Sophie blame herself for putting them in this situation and Teddy’s curse-laden rebuttal consisting purely of raw emotion. Devoid of a correct answer for what to do next, no one can fault anything but bad luck for the current predicament. They all know the girls are being selfish, but don’t they have a right to be? And if they all truly love one another, is there really a choice? Pain is unavoidable—the question is whether the child can be spared it.

Courtesy of TIFF

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