False Positive movie review & film summary (2021)

“False Positive” is frequently marked by hallucinatory mind games from here on out, with one too many distracting dream sequences that unsettle and confuse the viewer in order to get us into Lucy’s headspace; one that can’t assess the difference between dreams and reality. In due course, Lucy grows increasingly skeptical towards her surroundings, finding temporary sanity only in pregnancy support groups that she reluctantly joins once she suspects that evil things are happening inside her body without her consent. Not helping the matters is an entire canvas of players, all projecting their unrealistic, dismissive expectations onto the lonely young woman. “But you are glowing,” some say in denying her reality. “This is supposed to be a joyful time,” others patronizingly remind her in mind-numbingly sterile clinics, apartments and office buildings. In one of the film’s more obviously metaphoric scenes in this vein, Adrian creepily locks Cartier’s famous love bracelet around Lucy’s wrist, almost claiming her fate as his own. (The frequent and annoying”we”s that he uses in saying “we are pregnant” only reinforce this entitlement.)

Sporting an impeccable updo and an impossibly slender, side-buttoned pale pink dress uniform, Dr. Hindle’s right hand nurse Dawn (Gretchen Mol, the film’s mysterious MVP) plays a particularly important role in these acts. She reigns over Lucy in a hushed, passive-aggressive manner that brings to mind both the apathy of Nurse Ratched and the polite coldness of Serena Waterford in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In fact, Lee subtly plays with clever Handmaid’s-like visual and atmospheric cues in a number of segments, alongside “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski. Pogorzelski’s sharply unnerving, crisp images seize Lucy’s growing isolation in a world that demands she embrace her so-called womanly destiny. He films Lucy’s loss of self with a clear vision, chillingly capturing the unease and nervous laughs in the air, both when Dr. Hindle suggestively meddles with his intimidating medical tools and Adrian authoritatively stands over his wife’s body by a stretcher, becoming one with her pregnant torso.

Lee proves less successful in his critique of the likes of Lucy, affluent, well-meaning but still somewhat clueless city dwellers that need to check their own privileges. So when the script introduces Grace Singleton (Zainab Jah), a famed black midwife in favor of natural birth methods and earthy office decors into the story, its efforts to call attention to Lucy’s casually racist assumptions about this woman she calls “magical” feel painfully half-baked. Also vaguely considered is a bonkers, blood-splattered final act, making you wish that this otherwise shrewd, stylish little genre exercise had leaner thematic ambitions.

Now playing on Hulu.

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