EIFF 2023: Chuck Chuck Baby
Chuck Chuck Baby may not reinvent the romcom or the musical but it's brimming over with heart
Director Janis Pugh has a feel-good hit on her hands with this exuberant, poignant love story set in North Wales. Helen (Louise Brealey) finds camaraderie in an otherwise unremarkable routine working at her hometown's chicken processing plant. At home, she cares for her ex-husband’s ailing mother, Gwen (Sorcha Cusack); awkwardly, her ex, his girlfriend, and their child all live under this same roof. The reappearance of former schoolmate Joanne (Annabel Scholey) brings excitement to the small community and the possibility of change to Helen’s life; both women had feelings for each other as teenagers, but that door was never opened.
Chuck Chuck Baby is essentially a musical, but its songs (most pre-existing) come on radios while characters are driving or headphones while walking, and Helen and her friends sing along. These moments serve the same purpose as ‘traditional’ musical numbers, processing feelings that speaking alone cannot. It is a clever touch that lends verisimilitude to the heartfelt action. That said, musical hyper-realism – including larger-than-life choreography, this time involving chicken carcasses – is elsewhere intact.
Interactions between the performers – all uniquely vibrant and natural – lend the characters a depth that's not granted in script or exposition. The warmth of Helen’s processing plant colleagues leaps from the screen in direct opposition to the stock antagonism of her nasty-by-nature ex-partner.
The inelegant script does little more than move the plot between set pieces. Thus, story developments are signposted so early and eagerly that all elements of suspense are gone, but it barely matters: the heart is real. Chuck Chuck Baby may not reinvent the romcom or the musical, but its vibrancy guarantees a crowd-pleaser.
Chuck Chuck Baby had its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival