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The UK’s high rate of stillbirth – one in 200 pregnancies, among the most elevated in the developed world – is generating a growing number of documentaries aiming to initiate a wider dialogue. Debbie Howard’s film Still Loved (2015) spoke to Midlands parents in the process of grieving or moving on; now director Katie Rice provides three case studies with varying outcomes, released – as was Howard’s film – to coincide with baby loss awareness week.
The films share certain tropes: sobering first-person testimony, a poignant emphasis on artefacts that make such loss palpable (photos, condolence notes, those unworn booties) and understandably brief running times, recognition that this is a tough subject to talk about and a small, precious offering of hope.
There are differences in approach. Howard’s personal, reflective tapestry found its subjects alone months or years after the event, and watched them organise themselves into a community of the bereaved. Rice’s is briskly structural and immediate, taking a sample group of couples either undergoing stillborn pregnancies or trying to conceive again in their wake, showing the safety nets placed around them by institutions such as University College London Hospitals and Rosie’s in Cambridge.
Nothing swaddles the pain of an ultrasound discovering that one of expected twins no longer has a heartbeat – the most wrenching sequence here – but Rice also hears out midwives and obstetricians you’d want at your bedside and who extend the field of inquiry into the political by pointing out serious shortfalls in funding and staff levels.
Bearing the C4 logo and a voiceover by Amanda Holden, its essence is televisual. Rice gathers delivery-room footage, and closeups of her subjects summoning immense inner strength, because she knows what these images communicate: simply that this is what happens, and this is how people get through it – because they do get through it.
We’re at the start of a long-overdue conversation about stillbirth, but Rice enters it with the same tact and compassion she witnesses in those medical professionals her film elevates to the status of everyday heroes, wise enough to know they can’t make their pain vanish entirely, yet able to reassure us and provide the facts we need to try and move ahead.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Child of Mine review – poignant study of the trauma of stillbirth | Documentary films