Film Review – The Surrogate
Surrogacy journeys are, on the whole, successful. If set up carefully, they can progress without significant issues arising. Bringing life into the world is surely an amazing subject matter, but sadly the focus of the media is often on when things go wrong and how those involved in surrogacy run into problems.
More and more, there are films produced focussing on surrogacy and the pitfalls and challenges. The Surrogate, released at the UK Cinemas in July 2021, is the latest. For this film review, we look at the depiction of surrogacy in this new film and how it matches up with the lived experience of intended parents and surrogates.
Note: This review contains spoilers.
The Surrogate follows Jess, a 29 year old single graduate who works full time in a job that isn’t quite hitting the mark for her in the fulfilment stakes. She has a close gay friend and offers to be a traditional surrogate (where she also provides the egg) for him and his partner.
The Surrogate is based in New York City where surrogacy was only legal in very specific circumstances (at the time), and the option to pay compensation to the surrogate, like in other states, was not applicable in this instance.
Jess was keen to explain to her mother that she would only receive expenses for this, and it was something she very much wanted to do. This motivation to help irrespective of any financial reward is in fact common and reflective of the majority of surrogates, and is not lessened in states where compensation is allowed.
Jess’ journey and the relationship with her friend and now intended parents (IPs) seemed to be going really well until the 12 week scan appointment brought a diagnosis of Down syndrome. This clearly threw everyone into a spin. The IPs weren’t sure if they were equipped to bring up a child with extra care needs and therefore told Jess they wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
At the outset, Jess appeared on board with this, but then took it upon herself to introduce the IPs to some other families who she met at a day centre, who had children with Downs Syndrome in the hope that they would change their minds.
There were various questions raised in the body of the movie itself which included issues around termination, stereotypes, co-parenting, disability, and lifestyle. There was a breakdown in the relationship between Jess and the IPs due to differences in opinion, and Jess went on to explore her options if she were to keep the child and raise it on her own. She had support from her own family in whatever decision she would make, but decided that if she was going to do this on her own, she didn’t want there to be contact with the IPs at all given the decision they had already come to.
It all came to a head when Jess’s long term friend and the biological dad said that he could not agree to that. If the child was to be born he would want some contact. There was a realisation from Jess in this moment that meant they would both be linked together forever through this child, and it was that which finally allowed her to cry.
Ultimately, the relationship with her friend (and bio dad) had broken down so far with their differing opinions that she did not want to be linked to him forever, and her sister supported her with a termination.
This film really does address some important areas of discussion when it comes to surrogacy, and highlights why it is so important to make sure the right conversations are had early on in the process in order to reduce the risk of a decision like this causing such pain for everyone involved.
Across our surrogacy pathways in the UK, US and Canada our aim at Brilliant Beginnings and NGA Law is to ensure intended parents and surrogates embark on surrogacy fully informed of the what if’s. We support intended parents and surrogates to think about the difficult questions too, and ensure they are aligned on key decisions such as termination.
We always encourage and support a strong foundation based on being informed and transparent, and having a trust based relationship not only between both surrogates and intended parents but also the organisations supporting them. This means that as much as possible, when issues arise there is already a plan in place and these can be overcome from a place of strength.
For practical and legal help and advice about surrogacy in the UK or internationally please do visit the NGA Law and Brilliant Beginnings websites.