I was hugely impressed with the things that Paul Solet does with Grace. It is one of the most astonishing directorial debuts I have seen in some time. We have had pregnancy horror films before most notably Rosemarys Baby (1968) and a bunch of films that took their cue from it, or the likes of Its Alive (1974) and sequels. For a greater part of the film, Solet eschews horror conventions another more cliched film would have had the baby or protective mother killing people at regular intervals a perfect example of this might be the remake of Its Alive (2008). By contrast, Solet throws out all such effect (at least until near the end) and concentrates the film on the slowly accruing psychological disintegration of mother Jordan Ladd.
Grace is a film that takes place in the subtlety of nuance. In the opening scenes, we have Jordan Ladd and Stephen Park inviting her mother Gabrielle Rose and mothers husband Serge Houde to dinner all we need to know about Gabrielle Roses character is suggested in the distaste at which she greets the health food served up and takes the knife and fork and separates out Houdes food for the sake of his diet. Or just the way that Solet opens the film on the disinterested expression on Jordan Ladds face as she lies on her back during sex. There are a number of shock juxtapositions like where Solet creates constant revulsion by association showing Jordan Ladd watching videos of animal abuse contrasted to her drinking soymilk, the cat bringing in a rat and her having to dispose of it juxtaposed with her cutting food to be served up. There is particularly effective scene where Malcolm Stewart comes to the house and insists on giving Jordan Ladd a medical exam and just in the way he looks at and touches her with his stethoscope that resonates with suggestion of improper sexual interest on his part.
The true effect and horror of Grace comes during the middle third in the scenes where Jordan Ladd shuts herself in the house and insists on tending the baby. The film focuses on the accruing minutiae of detail the flies gathering around the babys crib, the slow rotting of food, Ladds calmness as we see the baby is drinking blood from her breast, followed by the increasingly more disturbing scenes where she starts filling the babys bottle with blood squeezed from packs of meat from the supermarket. Part of the effectiveness of these scenes is that Paul Solet has made a fascinatingly well detailed attempt to research the issues surrounding pregnancy, birthing and midwifery and does not stint in littering these throughout the film, making the film almost a clinical study in the proper medical and aftercare procedure of birthing, while equally taking the time to deconstruct many of the traditional procedures in medical practice. I dont know to what extent these scenes are accurate but I felt like I came away from the film knowing a whole lot more about the procedure involved in pregnancy and birthing than before I went in. The fact that Jordan Ladds slow psychological disintegration sits amidst this add immeasurably to the films effect. The film travels down more traditional routes in its last twenty minutes where a variety of people contrive to turn up at the house and end up being slaughtered where it feels that Solet finally comes under pressure to give over to horror film expectation.
In the central role is Jordan Ladd who gives a good performance. However, the film ends up being taken over by relatively unknown Canadian actress Samantha Ferris from the moment she enters the show, spouting facts that immediately turn all traditional views of medicine on their head and moments later charges into the emergency room to dismiss the doctors treating Jordan Ladd for their incompetence. Ferris gives a highly intelligent performance here and I am certainly interested to see what else she has done. Equally good is the distinguished Canadian actress Gabrielle Rose who gives a nicely autocratic performance as the mother determined to wrest control of the baby away from Jordan Ladd.