In film and television, babies are often a central plot point. One particular niche yet common category of baby stories is surrogacy. Comedy legends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler tackled the subject with their 2008 film Baby Mama, for example. Now, more than a decade later, a new film, Milkwater, offers a more serious – and queer – take on the concept.
Written and directed by Morgan Ingari, Milkwater stars queer actress Molly Bernard, a scene-stealer on the recently wrapped TV Land/Paramount+ series Younger. Bernard plays Milo, a twenty-something who impulsively offers to be a surrogate for an older single gay man named Roger. Milo meets Roger at a bar after an event with friends leaves her feeling lost, alone, and unfulfilled. She befriends Roger (Patrick Breen, A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Blacklist) and learns he desperately wants to be a father, but he’s had multiple adoptions and surrogacies fall through. She soon offers to be his surrogate, and Roger eventually accepts. However, as the pregnancy unfolds, Milo loses her head, muddling boundaries with Roger and straining other relationships in her life as she navigates the complexities of the surrogacy.
Like the surrogacy at its center, Milkwater as a film is a little messy. Supporting characters are underdeveloped, and Milo is hard to like. She selfishly begrudges her friends for having significant others, disrupts friends’ events with her own drama, and refuses to listen to criticism about her decisions. Worse, her motivations for offering to be Roger’s surrogate are questionable and self-serving.
Also frustrating are plot elements like Roger ignoring so many red flags about Milo before agreeing to let her be his surrogate, and that the duo initiates the pregnancy bizarrely with an at-home artificial insemination using a syringe Roger happens to have at home but never used before.
However, Milkwater is full of beauty too. Milo hits rock bottom but grows from it, and her resolution is achingly sweet. As Milo, Bernard displays the same fast-talking quirky charm that made her a stand-out in the talented ensemble cast of Younger. And while leaning into that comedic strength, she also brings a depth and sincerity that reminds viewers that Milo’s flaws stem from a very human place of vulnerability, pain, and longing. Breen and Robin de Jesus, who plays Milo’s roommate George, also shine with endearing warmth. And Ade Otukoya oozes sexy swagger as Milo’s love interest Cameron (though he’s underused).
The film also boasts multifaceted representation – regarding sexuality, ethnicities, lifestyles, and other forms of identities – without succumbing to mere stereotyping and box-checking. There is also so much about the story that is incredibly relatable. Perhaps not many of us have been surrogates, but many of us can relate to Milo’s twenty-something existential crisis of not necessarily wanting marriage and kids but feeling left behind by friends experiencing such things. We can relate to Roger’s dating app struggles. We can relate to Milo’s quest to feel something intense and have the monotony of her life disrupted.
Overall, there’s someone and something in Milkwater for everyone. It’s exploration of self-growth and happiness is worth the sip.