With Child (DVD Review)26 May, 2016 By: Thomas K. Arnold
MVD/Summer Hill Films
Stars Kerry Van Der Griend, Leslie Lewis.
It’s a familiar story, but with enough charm, character and humor to lift it way high up in the realm of originality.
With Child, the debut feature from director and writer Titus Heckel, is not a film about a pregnant woman, as its title might suggest.
Rather, the person “with child” is Auden Price (played by Kerry van der Griend, best known for playing one of the Neanderthals in the “Night at the Museum” series), a newly widowed construction worker who juggles solo parenting his 4-month-old daughter, Riley, with his need to make a living — and desire to build a new life.
Inevitably, there are clashes. Bringing his baby girl to a construction site doesn’t exactly work out. His dead wife’s sister wants custody of the baby girl, telling him, “Riley needs a home, she needs a family — and you’re a father figure, not family.”
But perhaps the biggest challenge is moving on from the tragic loss of his wife, which has torn apart the young family, and putting all the pieces back together into a new life. The stage is set when Auden snags a new job, remodeling a basement for an eccentric (and very attractive) woman, Petra (played by Leslie Lewis). The two begin an awkward relationship, initiated by Petra but intensified by the initially hesitant Auden. They kiss, they caress, they make love — and as their relationship progresses, Auden’s bond with baby Riley (played, incidentally, by Heckel’s own baby daughter) seems to intensify, particularly after his sister-in-law files for full custody. But Auden has a tough time showing his true feelings, and wallowing in self-pity almost sinks to the bottom. He lets Petra mail a letter in which his dead wife, knowing her fate, asks Auden to let Karen take care of their baby girl and become Riley’s “new mother.” Auden immediately regrets not tearing the letter from Petra’s hands and waits around the mailbox, only to be told by the mailman there’s no way he’s getting the letter back. At this point, he appears to give up, but when his attorney says Karen has no case Auden’s resolve strengthens again and he ultimately prevails, both in winning custody of Riley and in showing Petra his true feelings.
A family, thus, is reborn.
Van der Griend is an excellent actor, very believable in expressing the ups and downs and ups again of Auden’s path to fatherhood — and a new relationship. The highly talented Lewis, a smart and charismatic actress, also becomes her character, with doubts and uncertainties and conflicting signals that confuse the already-confused Auden even more. But we see from the start that she is a strong woman, a good woman — and a most suitable partner for Auden as he finally comes to grips with his wife’s death and the realizes that his own life, and that of his young daughter, must go on.
With Child earned a Best World Showcase nomination at the 2015 SoHo International Film Festival as well as a Leo Award nomination for Best Production Design from the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation of British Columbia.