‘Baby Ruby’ All The Major Characters From The Film, Explained

Existing popular culture and societal norms might project a radiant, colorful picture and perception regarding childbirth and postpartum experiences, but a part of that heightened superficiality hides the anxiety and dread associated with it. Horror movies like “It’s Alive” and “Rosemary’s Baby” have put some necessary emphasis on the subject in the past, and playwright Bess Wohl’s directorial debut movie “Baby Ruby” draws inspiration from both of these as he showcases the plight of a new mother by tinging the narrative with horror. By no means does the movie create something exceptionally unique besides adding a contemporary flavor of digital confinement. The story revolves around the mental strain suffered by the protagonist, Josephine, after the birth of her child and how her profession, as well as her social position, continue to deteriorate her sanity through time. Josephine, portrayed by the talented Noémie Merlant, who carries the movie almost single handedly, and the character’s mother-in-law Doris, played by Jayne Atkinson, provide a reliably strong backup. We will briefly go through their characters in our effort to examine how the common factor in maternal experiences constituted a significant theme of the movie.


Spoilers Ahead

Josephine, The Conflicted Mother Figure

A French lifestyle blogger by profession, Josephine, aka Jo, always strives for perfection. In her chic lifestyle, curated etiquettes, selection of posh upstate residences, and model relationship with her husband Spencer (Kit Harrington), there is no space for mediocrity or incompetence. Influencing her followers by essentially commoditizing her lifestyle, she has to bring her A-game out, commanding every position she assumes. Her obsessive perfectionist self is apparent as the movie begins, and we see her meticulously arranging her own baby shower and setting up every little detail despite ignoring her physical condition of being nine months pregnant. Her life is laid bare, and even the private moments are fodder for “content,” which has made her successful and famous in exchange. How hard could it be – apparently, that’s what she thinks of the responsibility of motherhood – something she has yet to experience. She doesn’t need to read a guide as per Spencer’s suggestion as it will be clichéd and also insulting to her expertise.


However, after the birth of her child, Ruby, her postpartum anxieties start creeping up as she repeatedly hallucinates disturbing scenarios and finds herself in awkward situations. There is a scene where her sudden cluelessness is shown when, in reply to the nurse’s statement about eating the placenta, she unironically confuses it with eating the baby. Her neatly measured life is muddled with fears, worries, and humdrum of a changed situation, and the struggle makes her feel incompetent. The dual blow proves enough for her to question even the most usual actions by the baby, like clutching and biting, as a form of “punishment” to show its anger at Jo. She feels even more confined after seeing her peers and followers being far more relaxed while looking after their children, while her strains of parenting and post-birth have left an impression all over her body and mind. Jo gradually loses the ability to distinguish between reality and imagination. After spending a wild night with her neighbor Stella in order to unwind, she finds (assumes) her husband Spencer has a better grip on handling the infant. Her assumptions about Ruby’s anger change to consider Ruby’s disappointment, and by this point, it becomes clear that every lashing out directed toward Ruby is part of her self-loathing. A feeling of distrust and panic takes hold of Jo as she considers everyone around her, including her husband, detrimental to her and Ruby. Jo’s psychotic episodes reach their height as she tries to flee her house, taking Ruby along with her, and crashes. After going through therapy, Jo now knows better than to expose the sanctity of her privacy to strangers online and refrains from posting about her daughter on her blog.

The traumatizing experiences and the aftermath have crushed Jo’s sense of entitlement. Her paranoia deeply stemmed from the competitive nature of her groomed “other” being separated from her motherly “self,” which is also the cause of her suffering an existential crisis. In the end, she makes amends with both her halves by forgiving herself – and it is the only way for her to recover. It is not possible to automatically be good at something as demanding as motherhood; it’s even harder and nonsensical to set up standards regarding that. Jo realizes that in the end.


Doris’ Honesty And Shared Experience

Jo’s mother-in-law Doris initially comes off as an overbearing elderly, trying to prove herself useful to the expectant couple and seeking to belong to the family. Doris is, at times, crass, judgmental, and silly when she is trying to engage in small talk. However, much like Spencer, she is extremely supportive of Jo and becomes a positive influence on her distraught self. When she shares her experience of motherhood with Jo, she is brutally honest about it. At least Jo could afford to have therapy, and Spencer was always at her side, but like many other mothers of the bygone era, Doris had to toil alone in managing a task as daunting as motherhood. Her harrowing confession about contemplating killing her child (Spencer) during her psychotic break unsettles Jo. Understandably, Jo doesn’t want to hear anything in that regard, as she is afraid to acknowledge the truth that each of the words Doris spoke during the conversation matches her own experience. And Doris is right to point out the terrible truth that one does not dare even share with their family, avoids looking back at, and ends up consuming the person in question. In her deranged state, Jo suspects Doris’ motivation and accuses her of trying to take baby Ruby away from her. As she leaves her house with Ruby, Doris stops her secretary from following, as she too knows what Jo is going through as she is familiar with the insecurities, traumas, and fears associated with motherhood. As Jo returns home from therapy, she thanks Doris for supporting her throughout.

The shared experience of maternal frustration is one of the foundations of the movie, and the timeless, perennial nature of the subject is shown through both Jo and Doris.


See more: ‘Baby Ruby’ Plot Synopsis & Ending, Explained: Is Josephine’s Baby Ruby Angry With Her?

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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