The Surrogate movie review & film summary (2020)

Jess (a radiant Jasmine Batchelor) is unfulfilled and restless. She has a Master’s degree and works at a prestigious non-profit providing support for incarcerated women. But her boss is not interested in her ideas for expanding the programs and tells her to get back to work sending out save-the-date emails about the upcoming fundraiser gala. There is a man who would like to have a relationship with her, but she turns him down, telling him she wants to be able to go somewhere, maybe the Peace Corps or teaching English abroad. But then she gets the results of a pregnancy test, and she is overjoyed. 

The baby is not hers. She has agreed to be a surrogate for her two best friends, a gay male couple, Josh (Chris Perfetti) and Aaron (Sullivan Jones). Contrary to what is considered best practices for surrogates today, apparently the egg is hers, though this is not explicitly discussed. Aaron is a lawyer and the three of them believe they have every possible aspect of the arrangement spelled out in a contract. The men will pay for all the medical expenses and Jess will relinquish any parental rights. “They’re the parents; I’m just the vessel,” she cheerfully explains to a slightly befuddled waitress when the three of them go out to a celebratory dinner. “I’m doing this because I want to and Josh and Aaron deserve it,” she says, confident that she has thought it through.

Then prenatal testing reveals an extra chromosome, Down syndrome. And that scrambles everyone’s ideas about what was happening. Jess now has a sense of purpose she did not have in her romantic or professional life. She reads up on Down syndrome and looks into community resources. She visits a social enrichment program, asks questions, reaches out to one of the teachers, plays with a child named Leon (maybe because he is high-functioning, maybe because he has red hair like Josh), and she invites his mother for coffee. Josh and Aaron are understandably shell-shocked, but they go along to visit the enrichment program and visit Leon and his parents. Jess believes that if she just gives them the right reading material and maybe suggests a more lucrative career redirection, they can make it work and everyone will live happily ever after.

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