False Positive (2021) | Discussion, Recommendations and Spoilers | Film Review
False Positive (2021) is a horror film that was released on Hulu on June 25, 2021. It is directed by John Lee and written by John Lee and Ilana Glazer. The film stars Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan, Sophia Bush and Gretchen Mol.
The film begins from the perspective of Lucy Martin (Ilana Glazer). She works and lives in Manhattan, New York with her husband, Adrian Martin (Justin Theroux). Lucy and Adrian have been trying to get pregnant for two years, ever since the death of Lucy's mother, which has seemingly caused severe trauma for Lucy, trauma that she has been reluctant to fully address.
After discovering she was again unable to conceive via a negative home pregnancy test, she speaks with Adrian about his friend and former professor, Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), who runs a women's clinic that specializes in fertility treatments. It seems that over the past two years, Adrian has been encouraging Lucy to think about going to see Dr. Hindle and seeing what Dr. Hindle would suggest as far as fertility options that were appropriate for the couple. After speaking with Adrian, Lucy finally agrees to go and see Dr. Hindle. Even though Dr. Hindle has many patients and there is a very long waiting list to see him, he apparently has a close enough relationship with Adrian that the couple is able to see Dr. Hindle very quickly.
When Lucy and Adrian go to their appointment with Dr. Hindle, they first encounter Dr. Hindle's head nurse, Dawn (Gretchen Mol) at the front desk of the clinic when checking in. Although Dawn seems professional and pleasant, something about the clinic and the staff seems to bother Lucy. She doesn't seem to be able to put her finger on it, but she seems taken aback by the staff and the atmosphere.
Lucy and Adrian and then led to a examination room and meet Dr. Hindle. Lucy observes Dr. Hindle greet Adrian warmly, somewhat surprising her as she apparently didn't realize how close of a relationship they actually had. As Lucy lies on the examination table, waiting for Dr. Hindle to start, she notices Adrian and Dr. Hindle paying more attention to each other than her. It seems to bother her, but she lets it go because getting pregnant is more important to her than the oddly close relationship between her husband and Dr. Hindle.
When Lucy asks about how Dr. Hindle will help her get pregnant, he explains that the fetus is developed using a mix of procedures, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), but doesn't explain exactly how it works. He tells her that it is a process that was created exclusively by him and that it has been incredibly successful.
At Lucy's next appointment, Dr. Hindle is preparing for the insemination process. Although the focus should be on Lucy and the procedure, she looks towards the end of the examination table while lying down and it seems as if Adrian, Dr. Hindle and Dawn are strangely excited and are almost in a way, congratulating each other. They are saying all the right things to Lucy, but something seems off. As Dr. Hindle actually inseminates Lucy, it comes across as extremely sexually inappropriate and unsettling. Lucy again dismisses the odd and disturbing behavior because she wants to get pregnant so badly.
That night, Lucy and Adrian discuss baby names and Lucy, still suffering from the trauma of her mother's death, wants to name the girl Wendy in association with her mother. We learn that Lucy's mother used to read her Peter Pan when she was small and she has positive, warm memories from that time. Adrian agrees on the name Wendy and focuses on boy's names. He asks Lucy if they can name a boy Adrian and Lucy is surprised that he wants to name their child after himself. She seems taken aback and questions his rationale. It seems that his name choice has more to do with himself and narcissistic traits than sentimental reasons. Lucy seems to question whether Adrian wants a child for the right reasons.
Later, while at work, Lucy feels nauseous and runs to the bathroom to throw up. She goes to see Dr. Hindle and discovers that she is pregnant with twin boys and a girl. Dr. Hindle and Dawn speak with Lucy and Adrian and tell her that since she already has a high-risk pregnancy, it would be better for her to abort either the girl or the twin boys. Dr. Hindle says this in a way where Lucy would not have any autonomy and could not choose to keep all of her babies. Lucy seems appalled at the news and asks for time to think about what to do. Adrian encourages her to keep the twin boys and abort the girl and Lucy is distraught because she wants to keep the girl in memory of her mother.
When she tells Dr. Hindle she wants to keep the girl and abort the twin boys, even he tries to encourage her to keep the boys. Lucy is adamant about keeping the girl and Dr. Hindle says he undertands and prepares Lucy for the procedure. As Lucy is put under anesthesia, she begins to hear the conversation between Dr. Hindle and Adrian, and hears them discussing her. She is not sure if what she hears is real, but is appalled to hear Dr. Hindle tell Adrian, "Don't worry, she'll get her fairytale ending."
The rest of the film follows Lucy as she continues developing in her pregnancy and the obstacles she faces regarding her pregnancy, her marriage, Dr. Hindle and the staff at Dr. Hindle's women's clinic.
* This film contains content about abortion, mental illness, infertility, sexual assault, gaslighting and narcissistic personality disorder. If any of these topics trigger you or could cause you trauma, I strongly suggest you avoid this film. Also, as some of the content regarding abortion is very graphic, I recommend you avoid this film, especially the ending.
If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The House of the Devil (2009)
A Horrible Way to Die (2010)
The Astronaut's Wife (1999)
I Trapped the Devil (2019)
* Discussion contains spoilers
I really liked this film and its themes, even though it was very hard to watch at times. I thought the film did a great job at exploring themes of abortion, pregnancy, fertility, gaslighting, narcissism, psychosis and hallucinations, mental illness, how pregnancy affects a woman, how trauma and loss affects a woman, and how much autonomy a woman is given surrounding fertility and pregnancy.
In the film, we learn that Lucy may be hallucinating some of the things she observes, but certainly not everything. It turns out Dr. Hindle is a very sick, narcissistic individual who "helps" the women at his clinic by impregnating them with his semen. So, essentially sexually assaulting them. We learn that Dr. Hindle did not abort the twin boys, he instead aborted the girl, completely devastating and betraying Lucy on a massive scale.
We also learn that her husband, Adrian, was completely aware of what Dr. Hindle was doing, and approved because he wanted the boys to carry on his name. It was appalling to learn that Lucy was betrayed by two completely narcissistic individuals who did not value Lucy in any way or appreciate her as an individual with separate thoughts and feelings from their own. The only thing they seemed to value her for was her ability to carry a child.
In the end, when Lucy goes to confront Dr. Hindle and learns of the assault, forced abortion and betrayal, she finds her girl, Wendy, in a plastic bag on a surgical tray. I felt her pain when she saw Wendy. I can't imagine how much that would hurt to not only lose your baby, but also find her in a plastic bag like she was not even worth giving to Lucy to grieve over and bury or cremate.
I know some people in the world have differing opinions on life in the womb and outside of it, what constitutes a baby versus a fetus, and I understand the differing opinions. I think what's important about this movie was that even though Dr. Hindle and his horrible staff didn't have the same feelings as Lucy, it should have been important to honor Lucy's wishes no matter what they thought. This film really pointed out to me how important a woman's wishes are when it comes to pregnancy, infertility, abortion and how a fetus is treated after an abortion or miscarriage.
I thought about how callous her husband Adrian was and how callous and uncaring Dr. Hindle was. At no point did they act as if they cared for one second about Lucy. They would say all the right things, but just like Lucy, I felt something was off from the beginning of the film. If you go into a clinic, why would a head nurse greet you at the front desk? Wouldn't they have a receptionist to greet patients? Why were all the nurses dressed in dresses instead of scrubs? Why were they dressed like they were working in a different period of time? It just seemed as if the only male at the clinic was Dr. Hindle and the rest of the staff were women and all the women were deferential and very unusually admiring of Dr. Hindle. I wouldn't have wanted to get care there, either.
Other things that bothered me were the relationship between Adrian and Dr. Hindle, how Dr. Hindle didn't ask what Lucy wanted to do regarding her pregnancy and the abortion (why couldn't she have chosen to bring all her fetuses to term instead of being forced to choose to abort one or two?) and how Adrian, as a doctor himself, could have hurt and betrayed Lucy so completely.
At the end of the film, Lucy takes Wendy from the clinic and brings her home. After giving her sons to Adrian to take care of, she takes Wendy into the living room and tries to nurse her. It's very disturbing but at the same time, heartbreaking to witness. Wendy was taken from her and she never got a chance to grieve her loss and say goodbye. The trauma of losing her mother, being forced to have an abortion, being sexually assaulted by Dr. Hindle with the approval of her husband, the betrayal by Adrian, Dr. Hindle, and everyone at the clinic, and the trauma of finding Wendy on a tray, completely broke Lucy down. It seemed as if the only way she could cope was to pretend Wendy was still alive and hallucinate that she was breastfeeding her and giving her sustenance. It was such a heavy and thought-provoking way to end the film and absolutely beautiful in its own way.
Infertility, miscarriage and abortion have such a stigma around them and it can be very hard to talk about in a society that judges women so severely. Some women can feel as if they aren't even a woman if they can't have a baby and such shame if they have miscarriages, abortions, can't breastfeed or if they have a baby with special needs, as if somehow it's all their fault. I really feel that it needs to be talked about more and brought into the open, and women need to be educated about how to be assertive about their medical care if they don't know how to address certain concerns or topics.
I felt so strongly that if I were in the room with Lucy when Dr. Hindle told her she had to abort, I would've told her she doesn't have to do anything. It's her decision, it's her body and she can decide if she wants to risk possible miscarriage, get a second opinion or even third opinion, or choose abortion. I thought that Lucy wanted to carry all three fetuses to term, but she just let Adrian and Dr. Hindle decide for her and kept on losing her sense of self, her power and grip on reality as her choices were taken away.
All in all, I thought this film was very good and no matter what your beliefs are, everyone should be able to say what they want to do with their own body and people who provide medical care should understand and support that, even if it's not what they would choose or if it's not what they personally believe.
Have you seen this film? What did you think? Do you plan on seeing this film? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!