In the grand scheme of things, what are the chances that two movies about single men’s quests for fatherhood, and their relationships with their surrogates, would be released within a few weeks of the other? Better than you might think, as it turns out.
Queer filmmaker Morgan Ingari’s debut full-length feature “Milkwater” (Wolfe), which follows closely on the swollen ankles of Nicole Beckwith’s “Together Together,” is disappointingly the lesser of the two movies. Part of the issue stems from the lead character, aimless millennial Milo (pansexual actor Molly Bernard) being so unlikeable and manipulative that it’s difficult to spend even 101 minutes with her, let alone nine months.
“Milkwater” gets off to a hilarious start with Milo attending the baby shower for her old friend Noor (Ava Eisenson), whom she’s known since junior high, and her wife KJ (Jess Stark). Despite the humorous depiction, including guests writing messages to the baby on disposable diapers and drinking cocktails out of baby bottles, there’s a certain sadness due to Milo feeling excluded by Noor’s sorority sisters.
Milo and her gay roommate George (out actor Robin de Jesus of “Boys in the Band” and “Camp”) leave early. While playing pool in a bar, they encounter Roger (Patrick Breen). George splits to meet up with a guy from an app and Roger, who’s 20 or so years older than Milo, asks for her advice regarding a dating app fail he’s experiencing. They hang out together, play darts, get acquainted.
Roger’s gay and the owner of Thigh Highs, a popular NY gay bar with a drag show, to which Milo has been with George. Roger talks about his failed attempts at single fatherhood – two adoptions fell through and a surrogacy didn’t take.
Milo’s conversation with Roger plants a seed, so to speak. In the meantime, Milo hits it off with Cameron (Ade Otukoya), a local musician who stops into the musical instrument store where she works. Later, after being stood up by Noor, Milo pops into Thigh Highs to see Roger perform as Angela Merkin. The two hang out some more and the talk returns to surrogacy. Milo offers her services, but hesitantly Roger makes it clear that it’s not a “tequila and drag” kind of decision.
After another unpleasant experience with Noor and KJ, Milo buys an ovulation test kit. She shows up at Roger’s apartment essentially presenting a now or never scenario. This is problematic on multiple levels, including that they hardly know anything about each other, including their personal and family histories. There are also the legal issues to consider, which they overlook as Roger presents Noor with a mug of his semen and a syringe.
Milo gets pregnant on the first try. George and his new boyfriend Teddy (Michael Judson Berry) share in Milo’s excitement, as does Roger when she goes to tell him during one of his shows. Noor on the other hand is less than supportive, perhaps because she’s known Milo for so long, and is aware of her history.
During the course of the pregnancy, Milo continues to see Cameron. Roger, meanwhile, meets and starts dating Ken (Justin Crowley), a guy in his “single dad’s group.” Unfortunately, Milo’s behavior becomes more erratic, not only putting a strain on her friendships, but also jeopardizing her relationships with Cameron and Roger.
Propelled by snappy dialogue and strong performances by the lead actors, “Milkwater” (whose title comes from an Anne Sexton poem) runs the risk of being diluted by Milo’s instability issues. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see queer characters in such a non-traditional setting.
Screen Savor is a weekly column from SFGN’s film critic Gregg Shapiro. Shapiro is an entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in regional LGBT and mainstream media outlets. Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State and More Poems About Buildings and Food. Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.