#TIFF23: “CHUCK CHUCK BABY” REVIEW
By David Baldwin
Helen’s (Louise Brealey) life did not turn out the way she expected. She lives in a room at her (ex?)husband’s home with his new girlfriend, their new baby, and his dying mother Gwen (Sorcha Cusack). Helen cares for Gwen during the day and works nights at the local chicken processing plant. She is thrown out of sorts however when her former neighbour and high school crush Joanne (Annabel Scholey) returns to town.
What follows is an often whimsical love story between two women who refuse to be defined by their past traumas. Did I mention that the characters in the Film have a habit of breaking out into song whenever one of their favourite tunes comes on? That just seems to be the world Helen and Joanne inhabit in CHUCK CHUCK BABY, Writer/Director Janis Pugh’s debut narrative feature. She infuses the proceedings with a sense of wonder, and continually uses floating chicken feathers as a motif in and out of the plant (which somehow seems less grueling than it should). She also does a great job balancing the Film’s cuteness and humour with its fiercely feminist undertones. Some moments might be slighter than others, but I just wish Pugh did not stray away so quickly whenever something dark is added into the mix.
The lead pair of Brealey and Scholey are terrific from start to finish. Their chemistry is off the charts and the intimacy and love they bring to their burgeoning relationship is a delight to watch. They do just as well in their more dramatic moments, ensuring the audience feels every ounce of pain and regret they do. The Supporting Cast around them is solid with Cusack as the clear standout. She gets many of the film’s most profound moments and does an exemplary job landing its most emotional beats. Anytime she popped up, it felt like a warm hug you did not want to pull away from.
CHUCK CHUCK BABY screens at TIFF ’23:
Friday, September 8 at 3:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
Sunday, September 10 at 6:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
Saturday, September 16 at 8:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto