Already pronounced as a Rosemary’s Baby knockoff by cinephiles and A24 fans alike from the moment the first synopsis was released, False Positive came out of A24’s production gate with a little bit of hostility. Personally, I prefer going into my film-watches completely blind; without any judgement or bias when looking at the film as a whole. Polanski’s film is admittedly not all that fresh in my mind, so my personal reaction towards John Lee’s latest is completely based on the film’s individual quality; a psychosomatic exploration at fertility, modern medicine, and motherhood. In concept, Lee’s consistent pacing and steady attention to camera movement and panning unveils a film of various aesthetic delights. The film, right off the bat, opens in a haze of self-destruction, as we see a blood-drenched Ilana Glazer, walking the empty streets of New York. It’s a simplistic but effective narrative ploy, by commencing the film in a state of pure horrific bemusement.
Yet when delving beyond its occasional moments of stylistic prowess, the core of False Positive divulges a hollow shell of undeveloped ideas and societal critiques. Hinting at the contemporary world view of how stereotyping & objectifying pregnant women can often lead to questionable & narcissistic medical practices that serve as a front for male-ego sovereignty; the central thesis of Lee’s film demonstrates a great amount of potential and complexity. Ironically however, nothing particularly insightful or damning for that matter is born out of this concept, where further one-dimensional leniency on character tropes and flat direction is often preferred over condensed narrative beats.
It especially becomes degrading when the film repeats itself like a broken record, utilising the same narrative setup and release strategy at various stilted moments. With very little time on actually developing its thesis, False Positive respectively dedicates its narrative to needless filler. Pedantic work drama, red herrings, and predictable doctor checkups are all expected. Admittedly, there’s nothing wrong in appreciating a handsome Pierce Brosnan conversing seductively, as he delivers one of his most charismatic roles of his career — the perfectly punctuated Dr. Hindle. But there’s so little substance to False Positive to begin with, that any form of enjoyment from these moments of brief cinematic giddiness are stripped away in mere minutes from the clutch of monotonous nonsense.
From auditory hallucinations, surreal visions, and the occasional moment of gaslighting — we’ve all seen False Positive in some shape or form before. It’s a film consumed by artifice, that disguises itself with an admittedly clever concept. Perhaps it should also be mentioned that the film’s end reveal could be viewed as insensitive, when put into contrast with other cases of medical malpractice and patient abuse. But that’s a completely independent subject for another time, that goes beyond Lee’s void feature. Because nothing is more scary than a mundane horror flick.