Review by Sean Boelman
To Kid or Not to Kid, directed by Maxine Trump (Musicwood), is a new documentary exploring what the filmmaker claims to be one of the most prominent social issues affecting women today. However, despite Trump’s obvious good intentions, her approach to the topic is simply too misguided for the film to be particularly effective.
The movie follows Trump’s struggle with her decision to remain childless, which she claims to be a choice still held taboo in modern society. Even though there is an extremely interesting film to be found in this story about female independence, Trump’s perspective on the issue too often feels like whining about how society has wronged her rather than a legitimate commentary on the repression of women.
Trump’s movie contains some not-too-subtle subtext about how the patriarchy lives on despite the increase in rights enjoyed by women in recent years, but this is disappointingly buried beneath many layers of self-pity. By focusing on herself as the subject and giving less screen time to the other subjects she interviews, Trump attempts to give the film a more personal feel but instead alienates the audience from some truly compelling subplots.
The movie likely could have been much more resonant had these other subjects’ stories been explored with more depth. One of the consequences of focusing on a single subject in a political film like this is that the story can sometimes feel overly specific. With the introduction of additional women who have made the decision not to have children, Trump could have made the issue feel much more pressing and relevant.
That said, many of Trump’s arguments are inherently flawed to the point of being outright offensive. One of the filmmaker’s main qualms with the issue is society’s reception to making her decision. In one scene, Trump seems to compare announcing her decision to be childless to the coming out experience of LGBTQ+ individuals, which is an entirely unreasonable comparison.
Other scenes feel extremely artificial, almost as if they had been staged. This completely ruins any emotional connection that the viewer may have otherwise felt to the subject. A scene in which Trump and her husband discuss emergency contraception feels particularly unnatural and even brings to question Trump’s ethics as a filmmaker. Granted, the subject is herself, but one can’t help but question what extent she would go to with someone else in front of the camera.
It is disappointing that Trump doesn’t seem to have control over her own story, because she is certainly a very talented filmmaker. The movie is assembled in a way that is both well-paced and aesthetically-pleasing, but her arguments are simply too poorly-argued for the film to be considered good.
To Kid or Not to Kid claims to have a timely social issue at its core, but in reality, it is just the filmmaker complaining about the ways in which she was wronged by society. Trump claims that the main reason she wants to remain childless is to make more movies, and hopefully those will be much better than this.
To Kid or Not to Kid is available on VOD now.