A Film Review
A film by Barney Cheng
Shot in Taipei, Bangkok, Mumbai and Los Angeles, is this heart-touching film about the value of family rising above the instituted family values accepted and perceived by so many in our world. The film touches as well upon the struggles connected with being a gay couple and trying to attain that which is available to most others despite the oft attached stigma, misunderstanding and disapproval.
Danny (Barney Cheng) and Tate (Michael Adam Hamilton) are partners living in Los Angeles with dreams of having a family. Danny’s disapproving mother (Ya-Lei Kuei) is visiting from Taipei and problems ensue. We learn that mom wasn’t aware of all that Tate would’ve liked for her to have known; such as his own role in Danny’s life. Perhaps it’s out of shame, fear of conflict with his mother or traditional ethnic values, but Danny’s own anxieties were very real to him; and so, the film goes forward in their on-and-off again conciliations and resolutions towards coming together as a family and Danny and Tate’s aspirations of having a child of their own.
It’s through international surrogacy that they’re able to achieve their aims. A process that becomes a complicated one for them on multiple levels. For those of you unfamiliar, surrogacy involves the natural or artificial insemination of a surrogate mother. International surrogacy, as the name implies, involves an overseas country. Alas the film doesn’t stop there. Because of related and unforeseen difficulties the story brings embryo transfer into the mix. Which again, as the name infers, involves the transfer of an embryo into another host. Alas the entire story become a tad convoluted but you get the picture, right?
In the end, all works out beautifully with a child being born, the couple getting married and Danny’s mother, extended family and friends all welcome the couple’s union; showing how acceptance triumphs over all.
It’s possible Mr. Cheng borrowed from recent headlines in his telling of the story. A couple of years back there was the news of a gay couple fighting for custody of their child born to a Thai surrogate. The woman, after learning of their homosexuality chose to renege on the contract set forth, and so a court battle followed. The Thai courts ruled in favor of the gay couple despite the fact that the country doesn’t even recognize same-sex marriages. There are other somewhat similar true stories involving the LGBT community and surrogacy.
I can appreciate Barney Cheng’s desire to go as far as possible with this tale and it’s clear to me how close to his heart the subject matter is. Notwithstanding my wishes for the direction and dialogue to have offered up more there’s no ignoring the beauty of Mr. Cheng’s message, and I can only fathom that attempting to wear so many hats in the creation of a film is quite the task. I thank you Mr. Cheng.
BABY STEPS will be released in the U.S. and Canada on August 15th on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD and across digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Directed, Written & Starring: Barney Cheng
Producers: Li-Kong Hsu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) / Stephen Israel