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Do I Have to Kill My Child? (1976)

A young mother is lonely, cannot cope with her domestic responsibilities, and does not want her third baby. She desperately needs help but no-one will listen to her until the baby goes to ... See full summary »

Director:

Donald Crombie
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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Willie Fennell Willie Fennell
Brendon Lunney Brendon Lunney
Jacki Weaver
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Storyline

A young mother is lonely, cannot cope with her domestic responsibilities, and does not want her third baby. She desperately needs help but no-one will listen to her until the baby goes to hospital with a fractured skull. Written by ScreenSound Australia

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Genres:

Drama | Thriller

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Trivia

Production personnel who worked on both 'Who Killed Jenny Langby?' (1974) and 'Do I Have to Kill My Child?' (1976) included producer Janet Isaac, director Donald Crombie, and social commentator Anne Deveson. See more »

User Reviews

 
Public information film that seeks for awareness
14 February 2002 | by FilmtributeSee all my reviews

Donald Crombie's (`Caddie') drama made in 1976 for International Women's Year, is more of a public information film without offering any advice, yet it has an important role in raising lots of issues. A mother (Jacki Weaver; `Picnic at Hanging Rock' and lately touring in `Girl Talk') pregnant with her third child is forced to move away from the support network of her family and friends to the city where she becomes lonely and depressed. However, even having family geographically near you is no guarantee of practical help, and in fact the grandmother seemed very critical of her daughter. Dianne reflects upon 1950's style of parenting with the painful recollection of the time her mother broke a broom handle over her back. The scenario of an expectant mother with two other children being wholly responsible for them and feeling desperate is all too genuine. To cope, Dianne takes tranquillisers, thereby increasing the tension and further angering her husband (Brendon Lunney). She is harassed enough to alienate one of her daughters after asking her about a school trip and allowing herself to be distracted by a trivial stain on the other daughter's clothes. The husband, although professing care, is very strong with his opinions in an undermining way, telling his wife to pull herself together. It takes a visit to casualty after the baby's soft skull is fractured through being rocked rather too vigorously, for her husband to think of getting domestic help for Dianne, and then only because he thinks her irresponsible as a mother. I would have thought it was imperative to have some form of physical support, and it would hardly seem beyond their financial means if they could not draw on other family members.

Her baby boy is born premature and incarcerated in an incubator that doesn't help their bonding, with Dianne regarding it from a safe distance like `a foetus in a bottle'. Certainly in the UK the attitude prevalent in the 1960's was that premature babies should be kept sterilely away from their parents to avoid the risk of infection, but fortunately that has changed with the knowledge of the damage that can be done to a child's feeling of self worth in denying physical bonding to its parents, which can have lasting repercussions. At least in the developed world premature babies have a better chance of survival today and parents are encouraged to handle them. Dianne's baby supposedly cries all day long, but to me the crying was nothing like the painful screaming I am aware of, and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable infant in being difficult to placate and refusing the food carefully prepared by its mother. Those unfortunate to find themselves with a baby unable to sleep because of its crying can find themselves ostracised and isolated when postnatal groups are constantly disrupted and disapproving looks leave the feeling that somehow you are to blame. An extremely negative outcome from the very groups that were set up to provide support and help.

Jacki Weaver won a Logie for her performance as Dianne, though she never really looked that frazzled or jaded being somehow still able to take good care of her looks, which I doubt would be the reality for many mothers in her position. Managing one child in a family with both its parents around can be tough enough at times, especially with the dreaded colic which certainly does last six months, and sleep deprivation can seriously alter anyone's apparent nature and bring out the devil in them. It is a common feeling that comes with the lack of sleep and constant irritation, that you can reach a point where you feel like shaking your baby violently to stop it crying, a temptation I am horrifyingly aware of. I can recall now with appalling amazement the times when I screamed back at my son instead, which at least released some of the anger but doesn't make you feel good as a father. The only sensible thing to do is put your baby down and walk away from them until you have calmed down, just as Dianne does, an action totally misunderstood by her husband when he finds her sobbing in the garden. How much harder it must be for single parents, and it seems odd in today's society that they can still attract any kind of stigma, when for the vast majority the situation is forced on them through death, divorce, abandonment, or escaping a violent relationship.

I respect anyone's decision not to have children as parenthood is not to be entered into lightly. It reminds you how difficult and exasperating you can be as a child, and how lucky you are if your parents loved you unconditionally. However, where lies the future without a constantly replenishing supply of children to continue to make changes to the way we live? E M Forster wrote in `Where Angels Fear to Tread' that life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor if the same physical tie bound children to their parents, but this presumes all parents value that tie which is sadly untrue, and life's purpose demands children break away from their procreators, to challenge the established order and continue the evolutionary process.

Life presents us all with challenges which we must overcome to make us stronger. The worst thing to do is to give into despair and to take not only your life, but also those of your offspring. I can only wonder at the desperation that tragically drove a mother to the state of mind to kill her three children (two boys aged 8 and 7 and a girl of 9 months) by setting fire to her car in Coomera on The Gold Coast in October 2001. In the ever-busy world we live in with high expectations and the apparent lack of caring communities the most vulnerable and those unable to cope will always be at risk.

VHS video copies are available from ScreenSound Australia's archives.


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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English

Company Credits

Production Co:

C.I.D. Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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