“Funny, sad, and shocking”

by C. Rachel Katz

When Alice Lowe was pregnant, she felt like an outsider. Here were all these women in her pregnant ladies yoga class, finding their centre, and there was Lowe thinking how bizarre this experience truly is. The whole sainted motherhood thing wasn’t for her. And so began her journey to make Prevenge.

“It’s about a pregnant woman getting revenge, so we’ll call it Prevenge,” Lowe explains to the TIFF audience at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. She goes on to say there was no way this movie could have been made if it anything other than the low budget, guerrilla-type film that it is; no studio would ever insure a pregnant woman to both direct and play the lead in Prevenge.

Prevenge is the tale of Ruth, who is seeking vengeance for the death of her boyfriend. She’s also seven months pregnant. Ruth’s baby daddy died in a climbing accident, and now baby herself wants revenge. She speaks to Ruth, encouraging her to kill. As Ruth navigates the murky waters of revenge, she also has the whole pregnancy issue to deal with, and although she wants desperately to keep her baby, she finds no solace in motherhood.

Directed by
Alice Lowe
Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Kayvan Novak
Release Date
Rachel’s Grade: B+

Both onscreen and off, Lowe asserts herself as a talented filmmaker. She also freely admits to flying by the seat of her pants. While filming on Halloween in Cardiff, a man dressed as a skeleton walked through their shot. Lowe asked him to do it again. “We put it in the movie because it looked cool,” she tells the audience. “I intellectualized it later.”

Prevenge doesn’t need a lot of intellectualizing, but that doesn’t mean the movie is without meaning. Rather, Ruth’s final words to her midwife speak to a profound understanding of herself. That realization frees her from her grief and she can revel in one last act of vengeance.

Funny, sad, and shocking, Prevenge is best described as a black comedy, although Lowe prefers to think of it as science fiction. There are lots of movies out there about pregnant women and pregnancy, but few that cast the mommy-to-be as the bad guy. Like a lot of science fiction, Prevenge shows us a world that is similar to but different from our own, one in which pregnancy can be a curse—a burden to bear like grief or vengeance.

Lowe also draws inspiration from 70s genre film, and Prevenge’s pulpy plot is evidence of that. So too are some of film’s visuals. The colours range from bland to richly saturated, and Lowe strives to gross out her audience with gore and insects. Revenge tales are as old as the hills, but Prevenge‘s subversive narrative is distinctly 21st century. With mommy blogs—both serious and humorous—taking up a significant portion of the blogosphere, and with social justice-fueled radfem co-opting a lot of the equality discourse, a female-led genre movie about an unhappy, isolated pregnant woman is a bit of a slap in the face.