Strong performances in sweet tale of surrogacy

REVIEW / DRAMA

BABY STEPS (R21)

120 minutes/Opens tomorrow/***

The story: Danny (Barney Cheng) is gay and lives with his boyfriend Tate (Michael Adam Hamilton) in Los Angeles. His mother (Gua Ah-leh) who lives in Taipei is in denial about her son's sexuality and desperately wants a grandchild. When Danny decides to have a baby, they finally have something in common - until she realises he is planning to do so through surrogacy.

While the title is a reference to the desire of the characters to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, it is also about the baby steps that Danny's mother takes as she gradually accepts her son and the modern family he is creating.

It is a role that borders on the overly familiar at first, but in the capable hands of veteran actress Gua Ah-leh (The Wedding Banquet, 1993), she becomes a more nuanced character whose emotional tug-of- war with her son feels entirely natural, underpinned as it is by love for her child.

Not for nothing has Gua won the Golden Horse Award four times and the Golden Bell Awards, for her television work, twice.

Barney Cheng acquits himself commendably as writer and director, drawing out the emotional drama between mother and son and also exploring the issue of surrogacy.

The process is a logistically challenging one - it takes the movie from a home for surrogate mothers in Mumbai to a fertility clinic in Bangkok, embracing ethnic diversity in the process, unlike too many Hollywood movies.

Cheng also captures the fact that it is an emotionally draining and complicated undertaking for everyone involved, including the surrogate.

And while it takes time to get there, the ending is a sweet and touching one in which love and acceptance eventually triumph.

Baby Steps may be a sequel in spirit to Lee Ang's seminal gay- themed The Wedding Banquet, but it also stands on its own two feet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'Strong performances in sweet tale of surrogacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe