Joyous, soul-lifting, and painfully tender, Chuck Chuck Baby is the latest British blockbuster that will tug at the heartstrings and increase the representation of lesbians in chicken factories by 100 per cent.
Helen (Louise Brealey) lives for three things. Working at the chicken factory with her best friends, caring for her ex-husband’s mother, and music. When Joanne (Annabel Scholey), the girl she secretly loved at school, comes back to town, she simultaneously realises how small her life has become and how big it could be.
“Feel-good film of the summer.”
Written and directed by Janis Pugh, Chuck Chuck Baby is a musical comedy with its head in the clouds but its feet on the ground. Starting life as the semi-autobiographical graduation film Blue Collars And Buttercups (2007), Chuck Chuck Baby has had a long journey to being Pugh’s directorial debut. But the wait was worth it, as the flashy musical numbers and boisterous best friends culminate in the feel-good film of the summer.
It feels like an ode to the working women in Pugh’s life, never conventional and never dull, these women deserve a film that captures their liveliness, and that is what Pugh achieves. While Pugh doesn’t shy away from the daily drudgery of minimum wage, she also reminds us of the freedoms to be found after clocking out.
“The film experiments with its musical numbers by beginning each song in the diegetic environment.”
This sense of escapism is captured by cinematographer Sarah Cunningham, who blends fantasy and reality into a dreamlike working-class town. Cunningham makes her shots look like memories as Helen and Joanne rediscover their first loves and confront their past selves.
A lot of their internal battles are waged through music. Using 60s and 70s hits from Neil Diamond, Julie Felix, and Janis Ian, it transports us back to Helen and Joanne’s youth and the heated intensity of your first crush. The film experiments with its musical numbers by beginning each song in the diegetic environment. It ties the emotion and music to the setting and adds a touch of authenticity to otherwise outlandish set pieces.
However, while the music is big and brash the choice to use mumble singing throughout sticks out like a plucked chicken. I can’t help but feel like this big-hearted film deserved big voices capable of belting out lovesick folk ballads. Instead, Chuck Chuck Baby is filled with singing resembling how most of us would absentmindedly pick up a tune in the shower.
“It is the innocence of first love given a second chance and they don’t hold back on the mush.”
It is not because Brealey or Scholey are not capable, because they both access these raw emotions for brilliant performances acting-wise, it just feels like they are holding back their talent when they have to sing. This results in a disconnect between the sound of the film and the visuals which are hard to ignore.
That being said Brealey and Scholey are genuinely sweet in the central love story. It is the innocence of first love given a second chance and they don’t hold back on the mush. Chuck Chuck Baby feels like a classic British afternoon flick that’s perfect for when life is lacking some musical numbers.
Chuck Chuck Baby is slated for release in 2024. Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from 18 – 23 August. For more of Brig’s coverage visit our website here.
Featured Image Credit: Artemisia Films