Brittany is about to become a gestational surrogate. Having just had a child, nothing brings her more joy than pregnancy, and the idea that she’s helping another couple who can’t have a baby in the traditional way start a family of their own. Through an agency, she agrees to carry the baby of a Chinese couple, Lin and Zhou Wang, who have turned to Brittany as a result of IVF and surrogacy being illegal in China.
But her husband, John, isn’t quite on the same page as his wife. When they’re faced with a meeting with their potential clients, he panics, and the agency hits pause on the deal until he and Brittany get on the same page, potentially scuddering one couple’s hopes for a family of their own.
Writer-director Henry Loevner’s smart, emotionally grounded comedy takes a different slant on an often dramatic subject, mining it instead for moments of cross-cultural mistranslations and budding matrimonial conflict. Nimbly directed and edited, it percolates through a fascinating milieu and eventually hits a genuine, heartwarming ending, becoming a well-observed social comedy with great heart.
Loevner is a sharp observer of cultural mores and language barriers, and his script is rich with ironies, mismatched expectations and small cultural differences whose gaps seem magnified with the odd intimacy of the situation. For a film so keenly interested in linguistic gaps in translations, its dialogue (and camerawork) is incredibly natural, hitting its arch comedic hooks and zings in a way that is seamlessly integrated into its world.
Part of that is due to the well-established characters and solid performances of the small ensemble cast. Actors Dan Gill and Brooke Trantor play the middle-class American couple, whose difference in opinion comes to light as the husband’s insecurities hijack a tense but hilarious conversation, while Anna Pan and Jizhong Zhang play the richer Chinese couple sometimes confused by their American counterparts but both greatly desiring to start a family.
The film is able to balance both the American and Chinese halves of the film, gesturing at their differences without essentializing or flattening them. Instead, the focus is connecting them to their emotional wants and needs — which turn out to be pretty universal.
The narrative structure of “Nest Egg” is essentially a series of difficult conversations, especially for John. As he goes through them, he’s confronted with emotional realities outside his own point of view. But as a result, he sees how lucky and fortunate he is in his own family — something valuable and beautiful that anyone around the world can understand, and one that he is in a unique position to offer to someone else. It is a profound realization, an act of empathy and a gift of great generosity from one family to another.