A film of love, loss, music, and female friendship, set in and around the falling feathers of a chicken processing plant in industrial north Wales.
Chuck Chuck Baby
Helen (Louise Brealey), a reserved, gentle woman, is slowly collapsing under the weight of her inexplicable life. She lives with her torpid husband and his much younger girlfriend (and their new colicky baby), working nights at the local chicken processing plant. There are two things that keep her hanging on: music, and her dear elderly mother-in-law Gwen (Sorcha Cusack), whom she cares for.
This dismal state of affairs is interrupted when Joanne (Annabel Scholey), a former neighbour (and Helen’s schoolgirl crush), arrives back in town after her father’s death. His house holds difficult childhood memories for Joanne, of events that many on the street remember, but since she’s been away, she’s become unapologetic in facing down the small-town malice that’s slung at her. What begins as a casual meeting between the two women swiftly turns to friendship and then to love.
Joanne is beguiled by Helen’s sweet naiveté, and Helen is in awe of Joanne’s courage and confidence. Their burgeoning relationship is threatened when Helen’s home life is further upended, accompanied by turbulence within the tight-knit group of women who work with her on the factory floor. Soon, Helen and Joanne each face a difficult, perhaps impossible, emotional choice about their futures.
Writer and director Janis Pugh infuses every frame with love for her characters in all of their complexity. The more serious themes of finding strength through community and the quest for female autonomy are intertwined with joyous, observant humour, and spontaneous musical numbers that the characters find themselves pulled into, capturing the blissful catharsis of art and the way it empowers us to be brave.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes