by Nuha Hassan
Cheryl Nichols’ Doula follows an expected mother and her male doula attempting to win her over after her partner hires him without her knowledge. In this candid and refreshing comedy, where much of the latter is dry and unhumorous, Troian Bellisario plays Deb, a grumpy and pregnant woman and Will Greenberg — who plays the titular doula — is exactly what the mother-to-be needs. While the jokes don’t always land, Doula shows how pregnancies are an emotional journey and the effect they can have on relationships.
When Deb’s former midwife passes away unexpectedly, her partner Silvio (Arron Shiver) decides to hire a live-in doula Sascha (Greenberg) without consulting her. Sascha, who happens to be the former midwife’s son, is happy to help Deb during the late stages of pregnancy, but she might need a little convincing. Soon, Deb learns of Sascha’s unconventional style and wins her over, and they become close friends. Meanwhile, Silvio starts to feel left out and jealous of their newfound friendship and he goes behind Deb’s back to exert control over the birth of their child. This causes a rift in their relationship and Silvio makes Deb choose between him or her male doula.
Doula explores a woman's choice on whether to give birth at home or at the hospital, but in the film, this is almost entirely decided by Deb’s partner. Their relationship begins to stumble when Silvio starts to pressure Deb to give birth to their baby at home and at the baby shower, he surprises her with a non-refundable birthing tub. She isn’t happy with Silvio’s wishes and prefers to give birth at the hospital, where she wouldn’t have to worry about the baby’s health. On the other hand, Sascha doesn’t try to persuade Deb into doing anything she doesn’t want to do, but steps out of line when he goes to see the doctor (Chris Pine) without her permission. The film shows the endless cycle of men dictating what women should do during their pregnancy, even when it’s against their wishes. Initially, neither Sascha nor Silvio respect Deb’s wishes, however, the former quickly learns to insert himself whenever he’s needed and understands Deb’s needs more than Silvio.
Ultimately, Doula presents themes such as motherhood and finding one’s true self during pregnancy. Deb’s discovery of her own self leads to a prolonged birthing sequence, where she has the baby at home. Sascha helps Deb to realise her self-worth and that, from the beginning, the choice has always been hers. Bellisario, who played Spencer Hastings in Pretty Little Liars, is a delight in this movie, as she portrays the annoyed and foul-mouthed, yet charming mother-to-be who clearly seems frustrated by the men in her life. Doula is nothing special overall, but Bellisario’s talent is what drives the movie to be a refreshing experience.