Television Review

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
"PETER IS really anxious because he has to go and produce a sperm sample," announced the voice-over halfway through "Baby It's You", the True Stories (C4) film about a couple's subjection to infertility treatment. To an outsider, the reasons for Peter's anxiety seemed pretty obvious - he could not be sure that his wife, the film's director, wouldn't follow him into the cubicle with a video camera and record his Clinton impersonation for posterity.

And Anne Makepeace was clearly game for some revelation herself. We had already seen the director's buttocks several times, receiving some of the many hormone injections which ensure a bumper crop of eggs. We had also seen Peter and Anne having a shower together, filmed with a camera which moved to get the right angle, an indication that this humid, intimate interlude was being shared by a third party, fully dressed in the fug of the bathroom and being directed by the pair. The bodily exposure was matched by an emotional strip-tease, in which the director shared her "journey into my past and my family" - shared it, that is, with anyone who wasn't so impatient with this solipsistic endeavour that they switched over in the first few minutes.

The opening sequence, a painfully self-centred anecdote about how the director had fallen in love with her husband, will have decided quite a few to depart - after all, other people's home movies are a proverbially anaesthetic experience and this appeared to be just an unusually self- important specimen of the genre. But more patient viewers, or those too indolent to change channels, probably watched to the end. For one thing, there was a certain comedy in the therapy-as-art approach: at one point, Makepeace set off to confess a youthful abortion to her New England aunties. "I'm hoping that by talking to them I'll free myself of demons that have haunted me all my life," she said, clearly taking it for granted that there was nothing we would like better than to stand by while the exorcism took place.

For another, the family proved to be unusually intriguing, in ways both comic and tragic. When Makepeace announced that her brother Doug had "recently decided to become a polygamist", you suspected one of her rare excursions into comedy. But this proved to be a literal statement of the truth. Doug, a Manhattan stock trader, was building several houses in the Utah desert, where he hoped to begin his harem, tele-commuting from a caravan. When he eventually found a candidate for wife number one, she took a dim view of further recruitment and pinned Doug down to a conventional marriage.

A crueller demonstration of the vagaries of life was provided by the death of Peter's lesbian sister, who was buried only three days before her daughter's first birthday, a child conceived with the help of a Toronto sperm bank with the memorable trading name of Repro-Man. The programme ended with a ludicrous scene of the couple doing religiose callisthenics on a twilit mountain-top, but the sense of other lives unfolding and unravelling around her central preoccupation, ultimately preserved the film from mere narcissism.