Director: Jon Cassar
Cast: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Romany Malco, Michael K. Williams, Theo Rossi, Jaz Sinclair
Release Date: September 9th, 2016
There are smart characters who make terrible decisions in movies and then there are characters like John Taylor in When the Bough Breaks. Here is a character who is happily married, story rich and successful. Despite that, he continually makes reckless and terrible decisions to the point where you question his intelligence and sanity.
Played by Morris Chestnus, John is one half of a beautiful young couple who unfortunately can’t bear children of their own. His wife is Laura (Regina Hall), a woman who has suffered through three miscarriages and years of trying to have her own child. Her emotions are real and poignant. “You actually start to hate your own body,” she says tearfully to Anna Walsh (Jaz Sinclair), a young woman who has offered to serve as a surrogate for the couple.
The issue for the Taylors though is that Anna is a psychopath. Beneath her friendly smile and naïve personality, she’s a monster. After Anna’s fiancé attacks her, the Taylors offer her a home with them during the duration of the pregnancy.
When Anna is left alone with John, her jealous personality comes to life leading him into trouble. Being a reasonable adult with a strong-headed wife and a child on the way, one would think that John would talk to his wife about Anna’s erratic behavior. He doesn’t. When he finds out about her past, one would think that John would immediately cut ties with her. He doesn’t. When he realizes what he’s up against, one would think John would start thinking clearly. He doesn’t.
Time and again, John makes obvious mistakes that any reasonable person would’ve avoided. Director Jon Cassar, who previously directed fifty-nine episodes of the original 24 series, was at the helm here and he tries to create a slow-building tension between the three main characters. He does a wonderful job capturing Laura’s state of mind — Hall’s performance is the best aspect of this film — but he fails to keep all of the plot pieces together here. Laura disappears on and off during the film’s second half and when she does appear, she seems clueless about how her once friendly relationship with Anna has transformed into something much darker.
The script by Jack Olsen doesn’t help as it repeatedly relies on John’s undeniable naivety and stupidity to make sense. This feature would’ve been a lot shorter if John started acting as reasonably intelligent after Anna starts obsessing over him. Instead, the plot relies on him making one mistake after another and not realizing how instane Anna has become.
It also doesn’t help that the climax of the film is relentlessly over the top. When Anna finally confronts Laura, the circumstances are beyond outrageous. In order to get there, the plot asks you to believe unbelievable things (Why did no one smell a dead body next door? Why aren’t the police involved earlier?).
This movie won’t hold up to the similar fare we’ve seen in this genre before. Movies like Fatal Attraction (1987) offer a similar plot — crazy woman becomes obsessed with a married man — but at least that one offered a somewhat-reasonable plot and original elements. When the Bough Breaks is a tired addition to the genre, which is quite disappointing considering that Regina Hall does a fine job in her limited time onscreen.
Review by: John Hanlon