8 Movies Like Birth (2004)

Staff & contributors

, 1995

Something is wrong with Carol White. She’s a well-off housewife living in the picturesque suburbs of Los Angeles. Her husband’s job is going well, her step-son is pleasant, and her social life consists of boutique lunches, fruit-filled diets, and lavishly pink baby showers—all is well on this side of the white picket fence.

Until Carol starts sneezing. Then she begins coughing, and she experiences a violent asthma attack while driving on the freeway. Afterward, Carol’s nose won’t stop bleeding. She starts having seizures. Struggling to breathe, Carol winds up in the hospital, seeing doctors and psychologists trying to diagnose what’s wrong and whether her mystery illness is physiological or psychological.

Todd Haynes’ Safe is an unnerving examination at our relationship with the environment—and in an increasingly modernized world, how much we can tolerate of what we create: white noise, toxins, busy work, everyday poisons, monotonous obligations. It’s also a complicated reflection on the ways in which women’s pain is disregarded and minimized, and what the loss of invisible agency looks like when it begins to manifest outward.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allan Wasserman, April Grace, Beth Grant, Brandon Cruz, Cassy Friel, Chauncey Leopardi, Dean Norris, Eleanor Graham, Elinor O. Caplan, Francesca P. Roberts, James Le Gros, James Lyons, Janel Moloney, Jean St. James, Jessica Harper, Jodie Markell, John Apicella, Julianne Moore, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Lorna Scott, Martha Velez, Mary Carver, Peter Crombie, Peter Friedman, Rio Hackford, Ronnie Farer, Saachiko, Sarah Scott Davis, Steven Gilborn, Susan Norman, Tim Gardner, Tricia Dong, Wendy Haynes, Xander Berkeley

Director: Todd Haynes

In his debut feature, Jonathan Glazer masterfully subverts our expectations of heist movies to thrilling effect: what should be a perfunctory moment — the classic recruitment scene — is stretched out into nearly an entire film of its own here, and we’re not off the edge of our seat for even a second of it.

All retired Cockney gangster Gal (Ray Winstone) wants to do is lounge around the pool of his Spanish villa with beloved wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). But now there’s a spanner in the works: an unhinged old acquaintance, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, never better), has unexpectedly rocked up at Gal's hacienda to enlist him for a big job on behalf of the London underworld’s top brass. Don is the type of man you just don’t say “no” to, but the pull of Gal’s idyllic retirement is so powerful that he does just that, a narrative swerve that spins this film off the well-worn (but still enjoyable) track we expected it to follow. Directed with cool assurance, full of unforgettable set-pieces, overflowing with style, and even further distinguished by some surreal touches that really get under the skin, this is one of the slickest, funniest, and most exhilarating crime movies ever.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Álvaro Monje, Amanda Redman, Andy Lucas, Ben Kingsley, Cavan Kendall, Chris Webb, Desirée Erasmus, Eddie O'Connell, Gérard Barray, Ian McShane, James Fox, Julianne White, Ray Winstone, Rocky Taylor, Terence Plummer

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Based on a true story, The Whistleblower is the biography of a once Nebraskan police officer who volunteers for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia. Once there, she uncovers a human trafficking scandal involving peacekeeping officials, and finds herself alone against a hostile system in a devastated country. Rachel Weisz plays the whistleblower in a powerful lead role, but the true star of the movie is its director, Larysa Kondracki, who thanks to near documentary-style film-making delivers a perfectly executed political thriller with utmost authenticity.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adriana Butoi, Alexandru Potocean, Alin Panc, Anca Androne, Anna Schafer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bryan Jardine, Catherine McNally, Coca Bloos, Danny John-Jules, David Hewlett, David Strathairn, Dorotheea Petre, Florin Busuioc, Geoffrey Pounsett, Ion Sapdaru, Ionut Grama, Jeanette Hain, Liam Cunningham, Luke Treadaway, Monica Bellucci, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Paul Jerricho, Paula Schramm, Pilou Asbæk, Rachel Weisz, Radu Bânzaru, Rayisa Kondracki, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Roxana Condurache, Roxana Guttman, Sergej Trifunović, Stuart Graham, Vanessa Redgrave, Victoria Raileanu, Vlad Ivanov, William Hope

Director: Larysa Kondracki

Rating: R

Is courage still courage when you have no choices left? What do you do when you're pressed to the wall and have no way to go? Maria, a pretty, modest and hardworking girl living in a small Colombian town, where the only career choice (thus not being a choice, really) is working in a floral plant, packing and distributing flowers - a dead-end job with killer hours and zero-tolerance boss. Yet, it's money. Until the day Maria gets pregnant and her choices become even more limited. By accident, she makes acquaintance with a guy who turns out to be her way out - and the way is out to become a drug mule, transporting drugs in your stomach across the border to the American soil. A job dangerous in many aspects, illegal and potentially deadly, but also paid well. Maria decides to take the only way out, a way that may be a one-way street. Maria Full of Grace is a gut-wrenching story about survival in a seemingly hopeless situation. It's about taking that one chance that has all the potential to go south, and investing in it all the hope you have left, and all the survival instinct you have in your heart and soul. And when everything that could go bad does, and everything turns from bad to worse beyond imagination, it's about standing strong and not giving up, no matter what. Though technically not a documentary, it's real beyond belief, and you can be sure Colombia is full of Marias - just hoping for a decent life, ready to sacrifice the very life itself to obtain it. It's a masterpiece of its genre and it also boasts one of the best posters in the history of the cinema. Highly recommended.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Charles Albert Patiño, Guilied Lopez, Jaime Osorio Gómez, Jhon Álex Toro, Johanna Andrea Mora, John Álex Toro, Orlando Tobón, Patricia Rae, Selenis Leyva, Victor Macias

Director: Joshua Marston

Rating: R

Things We Lost in the Fire is a touching drama about Audrey (Hall Berry), a married mother-of-two, whose husband Brian (David Duchovny) is killed tragically in a random act of violence. Amidst her grief she comes to connect with Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), Brian’s childhood friend who is living an isolated life as a junkie, and ultimately invites him to live with her and her children. What may sound like a formulaic set-up, with broken souls coming together to find mutual reconciliation, is elevated immeasurably by Susanne Bier’s deft directorial hand. The celebrated director of After the Wedding and In A Better World weaves a poignant narrative about loss and human connectivity, featuring stunningly good performances by both Berry and Del Toro. It’s a film that’s likely to surprise you with its heartfelt tenderness and compassion.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexis Llewellyn, Alison Lohman, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Halle Berry, John Carroll Lynch, Liam James, Maureen Thomas, Micah Berry, Omar Benson Miller, Patricia Harras, Paula Newsome, Quinn Lord, Robin Weigert, Sarah Dubrovsky, Vincent Foster, 宝拉·纽瑟姆

Director: Susanne Bier

Rating: R

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Miles Teller star in this subtle drama about the state of a couple eight months into dealing with the sudden loss of their son.

The movie is based on a David Lindsay-Abaire play by the same name which won a Pulitzer Prize. It deals with the timeline of grief, and whether such a thing even exists: can the couple attempt to move on after 8 months? What about 8 years, like another couple they meet in a counseling group?

It’s also about how the differences in grief create tensions: the mother wants to donate the clothes and sell the house because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the event. The father wants to hold on the memory instead.

Rabbit Hole, like its source material, is sad, but its realistic approach and excellent performances make it nothing more than a perfect reflection of how complicated life can be.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Eckhart, Ali Marsh, Colin Mitchell, Deidre Goodwin, Derek Blakeney, Dianne Wiest, Giancarlo Esposito, Jay Wilkison, Jennifer Roszell, Jon Tenney, Julie Lauren, Marylouise Burke, Mike Doyle, Miles Teller, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Kalember, Rob Campbell, Roberta Wallach, Salli Saffioti, Sandi Carroll, Sandra Oh, Sara Jane Blazo, Stephen Mailer, Tammy Blanchard, Teresa Kelsey, Ursula Parker, Yetta Gottesman

Director: David Lindsay-Abaire, John Cameron Mitchell

Rating: PG-13

Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) runs a high-brow art gallery in Chicago and has to take a trip to North Carolina to meet with an artist she wants to sign. She uses this opportunity to also meet her husband’s family, who is originally from there.

She is introduced into the small world of rural North Carolina, personified in Ashley (Amy Adams), the wife of her husband’s brother. Ashley is a wide-eyed but good-hearted person who has never left her town and who is in a bad relationship but pregnant with her first child. 

Ashley is the true main character of this movie (even if all Adams accolades were for ‘best supporting’ awards). Her joyfulness, her pregnancy, and her interactions with Madeliene are studied closely in this subtle but touching family drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Alicia Van Couvering, Amy Adams, Ben McKenzie, Bobby Tisdale, Celia Weston, David Kuhn, Embeth Davidtz, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Jerry Minor, Jill Wagner, Joanne Pankow, Matt Besser, R. Keith Harris, Scott Wilson, Will Oldham

Director: Phil Morrison

Rating: R

Bree (Felicity Huffman) is an uptight transwoman who gets a phone call from her long lost son who is in trouble. She does not tell him she is his father but bails him out of jail and they end up on a long road trip to LA. Bree's high strung conservative personality intersecting with a wild young man and people they meet along the way leads to some comical situations. Felicity Huffman's performance is excellent. It is enjoyable to watch the characters develop over the film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amy Povich, Andrea James, Bianca Leigh, Burt Young, Calpernia Addams, Carrie Preston, Craig Bockhorn, Danny Burstein, Elizabeth Peña, Elizabeth Peña, Felicity Huffman, Fionnula Flanagan, Forrie J. Smith, Graham Greene, Grant Monohon, Jim Frangione, Jon Budinoff, Kevin Zegers, Maurice Orozco, Paul Borghese, Raynor Scheine, Richard Poe, Stella Maeve, Steve Hurwitz, Teala Dunn, Venida Evans

Director: Duncan Tucker

Rating: R