Parenthood is a wonderful thing, but it can be equally frightening and stressful. One of the most vivid depictions of parenthood anxiousness is David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’ – a gloomy and surreal experience rooted in the director’s fear of becoming a father. 'Lullaby' has quite a few elements in common with the masterpiece from the 70s and ends up painting an uneasy and gloomy portrait of a young family’s struggles.
A young couple has recently had a baby, but instead of such a situation becoming a perfect family portrait, it evolves into quite the opposite. The man takes as little responsibility as he can, from the assumption that he brings the money into the household, and therefore he should be exempt from any other duties involving the child. He even stays overtime at work, playing games on his mobile phone, and postponing the moment of coming home as much as he can. The woman stays at home permanently to care for her baby and, left without any emotional support, she struggles to find happiness. With no human contact apart from a constantly crying baby – which she takes as the result of her failure as a mother – she slowly but steadily falls into a serious state of depression.
Apart from its interesting intrigue and solidly constructed narrative, 'Lullaby' excels in its visual presentation. The black and white filter works toward the same effect as the one in 'Eraserhead', building a gloomy atmosphere and a dark state of mind. Even otherwise happy-looking environments such as a well-lit kitchen and a living room full of colorful plush toys become sinister sights, around which a psychological tragedy is slowly woven.
Another theme aptly explored in visual terms is that of distance. Apart from the physical distance between the man and the woman, who always sit apart and almost never touch, there’s a more symbolically-constructed sense of distance, which mainly resides in how the shots are built. The long camera angles, very few close-ups and bird’s-eye views from the ceiling all combine to create a cold, lonely and unemphatic sense of emotional distance. Nobody understands anybody else’s needs, wants, and feelings – it goes so far as even the baby’s normal cries are misunderstood, and interpreted as scorn and hate.
Despite being straightforward and explicit, 'Lullaby' is not an easy watch, and that is primarily because of the portrait of quiet desperation it so accurately conveys. Like a muffled cry for help, the film masterfully captures a reality that is perhaps all too common and could so easily be avoided if there was more public awareness on such topics. It’s an experience which stayed in our minds long after we watched the credits roll, and that only serves to show how good of a film this is.