Now this is drama! I watched the Tribeca Film Festival selection The High Cost of Living, and this is exactly what I’m looking for in a heavy story. Writer/director Deborah Chow just throws the most awful situation at her characters and watches them deal with it.
Henry (Zach Braff) is a prescription drug dealer. Nathalie (Isabelle Blais) is a pregnant woman neglected by her workaholic husband Michel (Patrick Labbe’). After a night of partying, Henry hits Nathalie with his car. But, this movie doesn’t just coast on the tragedy of a dead baby.
Nathalie survives but she has to keep the dead fetus in her womb until the hospital can schedule an operation. Can you imagine? Henry tries to check up on the accident, but since he committed hit and run he can’t be straightforward. It’s smart of Henry to check the newspaper for birth notices, hoping he can confirm that his victims made it out okay.
Henry gets his landlords’ kid Johnny (Julian Lo) involved, running errands to find Nathalie at the hospital or at her home, the spot of the accident. Trying to explain all the conditions Johnny has to follow so he doesn’t give Henry away is more drama.
Meanwhile, it’s still going to be more weeks before the doctors are willing to schedule Nathalie’s surgery. She has to go meet people with her belly, and they all assume it’s still a living baby. She can’t have a drink without people commenting that a pregnant mother shouldn’t drink. Nathalie should just blurt out, “I’m carrying a carcass inside me!”
That’s when Henry sees her and steps in. He doesn’t care if she drinks. He sees a pregnant tummy and thinks he’s off the hook. Then when she tells him, imagine going from “Whew, it all worked out” to “Oh my God, I’m a baby murderer” in an instant.
The whole situation is impossible. How could Henry make up for something so awful? Does he even have the right to try? Then Nathalie starts coming out of her shell thanks to his friendship, so he’s instrumental in both her trauma and recovery.
The film ultimately plays out in that familiar way. Henry’s about to confess but Nathalie reveals something else so he can’t drop the bomb anymore. The police investigation spirals until Johnny becomes the suspect.
Even with that structure, the depth of drama simmers throughout the film. It never feels like Oscar bait. The drama is the priority and the filmmakers and actors both fulfill their service. Now if Oscars happen to come their way, they’ll deserve them.