Where do babies come from? — a male child asks of his teacher (David Arquette) in a room full of other children all curious to hear the answer. As their teacher fumbles with words other children give their answers or slyly remark how they can tell him after class. The “kid’s say the darndest things” approach is then obviously used as close-ups of various children outside the classroom, seated, offer their insights. They are cute, uninhibited, charismatic, and often embarrassed as such adult words like vagina are spoken from their lips.
The scientific explanation is clear…the sperm and the egg and so on…but what Conception shows us is the human relationships that are forged or currently exist, leading to the conception of a baby. The children in the opening scene represent the couples the viewer is about to meet, and the very different ways in which each conceives a child. The eight couples on display are all completely different in their relationships and timing. The teenagers, Tracey and Matt, who are about to embark on their first sexual experience together show the fear, anxiety, and youthful anticipation of having sex for the first time. It is not just an act but one that must be earned and bartered for; in this case the giving up of eating meat. The complete opposite of their situation are the married couple, Laurie and Brad. Two people more concerned with finishing a chapter of a book then making love in the evening. Sex has become a chore, and something that has to be scheduled and arranged, while just as easily being tossed aside if a remark made by their partner is taken poorly. Yet these two people share an intimacy many can only dream of; they know each other so well that their evening ritual of brushing their teeth is a testament to their longevity. This is not a marriage about to end but one that has developed into something different, and that something needs to be adjusted so that it still breathes passion.
The most comedic of all is the couple undergoing fertility treatments, Gloria and Brian. The clinical nature of their sexual encounters is hilariously put into words by writer/director Josh Stolberg, and acted out splendidly. Making a baby is not always easy, but it can be downright entertaining given the situation. Continuing the playful nature of many of the relationships are the blind daters, Having just met, and it is questionable whether they have even had dinner, they find themselves having sex on the floor of his apartment. It is completely consensual and the woman actually shows the power of the relationship. The morning after is what becomes questionable when a certain condom goes missing. Oh, the complications of having sex. Speaking of complications, we have the couple who live together unhappily–as he is a gambling slacker–and her anger erupts by taking a baseball bat to the $900 television. Ouch! These two have some serious problems to work out, and although the time spent on them is limited they do represent growing pains well. Those who have to take control of their lives and face being adults, whether together or apart.
There is also a lesbian couple, quietly speaking about their ten year relationship and the future of it as a cooler lays beside them containing frozen sperm waiting to be inseminated. As well as the older woman, younger man pairing that shows the desperation the woman feels to prove she is just as desirable, adventurous, and worthy of such a young man in her life. Moving on we meet the happily dating couple who are the oversexed ones of the narrative. Every scene they are in centers around them about to have sex or watching them have sex. They are the primal ones, two people who are incredibly attracted to one another and express it every chance they have. These three couples present the weakest of the eight in terms of depth and representation. Their storylines are more superficial and one-dimensional and a real look inside their relationships is never established.
Then there is the couple who have recently had a baby. Probably the most honest and raw in terms of writing they are at an impasse. The husband wants desperately to have sex again with his wife; she is not ready. The changes to her body and mind from having a child have changed her deeply and she no longer finds herself attractive or sexy. The conversations they share about moving forward in their post-baby relationship can nearly drive you to tears as the words, and the performances evoke strong emotions from the natural and unrefined, but perfectly moderated, connection these two people share.
A real achievement behind Conception is how easily it moves between all of these couples but never sacrifices the deeper meanings they all portray. Some may be deeper than others, and some may resonate more with a viewer but they all remain important. The editing technique associated with this easy movement is that of split screens. As one couple is engaged in conversation, or an act, the screen portrays another couple in the midst of their story. It makes for seamless transitions that take the viewer in a more slow and casual manner to the next couple while also breaking up the narrative to only divulge so much information on each couple at once, leaving a stir of anticipation in the viewer as to how their relationship will piece together as the film progresses.
Conception is a deeply intimate film. It borders on the voyeuristic in many ways as you are privy to the inner workings, the feelings, the heartfelt sentiment, and often hilarious banter of couple’s private matters. The film holds nothing back as it develops, and the writing is exceptionally genuine joined with great talent by Director Josh Stolberg. These are conversations people do have, circumstances many people face, and uncertain futures one can relate with completely.
Conception was screened during the opening night of the Beverly Hills Film Festival, 2011. More information on the festival may be found on its website here. For more information on the film please visit its website.
Starring Pamela Adlon, David Arquette, Aaron Ashmore, Moon Bloodgood, Julie Bowen, Connie Britton, Jennifer Finnigan, Tim Griffin, Steve Howey, Sarah Hyland, Jennifer Jostyn, Leila Charles Leigh, Jason Mantzoukas, America Olivo, Leah Pipes, Matt Prokop, Jonathan Silverman, Gregory Smith and Alan Tudyk
Written/Directed by Josh Stolberg
Produced by Stephanie Sherrin & Leila Charles Leigh
Director of Photography by Noah Rosenthal
Edited by Naomi Sunrise Filoramo
TRT: 86 minutes