At The Movies


January 2023
Director:  Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, and more.

The incredible tale about the fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter.

I went into this movie not knowing what to expect. When the credits rolled after two and a half hours, I had a lot to think about. The film was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Then I went and had a look at critical reviews, and viewer reviews. They were widely divided. Half seemed to think it was pretty much soft-core pornography and walked out (or said they regretted not having done so). The other half expressed enjoyment of the film and I admit I agree with the second group.

The premise of the film is clever. A young woman (Stone) late in pregnancy jumps from a bridge wishing to end her life. An eccentric London scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe), finds the woman and reanimates her — with her baby’s brain.

In the first quarter of the movie, we have the woman, now Bella Baxter, learning to talk and walk in an adult body. She’s being raised as the doctor’s daughter who she calls ‘God.’ He hires a younger scientist named Max McCandles (Youssef) to observe Bella’s behavior and to keep meticulous notes.

There is also a solicitor hanging around, Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo), who sees the situation for what it truly is. Bella, pretty much a small child mentally, is naive and in a fully mature body. Knowing she wants to see the world, and God won’t let her, Wedderburn lures her away with him to exploit her for his lust. 

The rest of the film is a brilliant take on a woman in the most bizarre situation but with one huge advantage. She wasn’t taught societal norms for women in Victorian England. She knows nothing of proper etiquette, modesty, or a woman’s role in the world. As she mentally matures, she becomes a magnificent creature the world has never seen before.

While the film was a little long and there were a lot of sensual scenes, the originality of the story alone was worth the price of admission. It was cleverly written and well-paced. The acting was top-notch. Emma Stone deserves the best actress Oscar this year and this humble reviewer hopes that she wins it. Dafoe and Ruffalo were also magnificent, particularly Ruffalo who stole almost every scene he was in with awesome comedic timing. 

The film has a lot to say about exploitation and women and it doesn’t pull any punches. The folks who walked out of the film missed the point of the film entirely. I could have lived with it if it had been a little shorter but otherwise, I have no complaints. I should also mention that the film was visually stunning with careful attention to even the smallest details in the sets and costuming.

I recommend this film to those of age interested in smart, high-concept films. It’s not for everyone but for those it’s for, it’s a powerhouse of a film that shouldn’t be missed.

Isabella Jordan