The pilot of Love Child had to be one of the most compelling and packed pilots that I’ve ever seen.
We are introduced to every single major character–Joan, the progressive and optimistic midwife, Frances Bolton, Matron of Stanton House, Dr Patrick McNaughton the charming obstetrician, Shirley Ryan, the mysterious older Stanton House resident and Johnny, Shirley’s draft resisting boyfriend. Last but not least, I can’t forget the main girls–Annie Carmichael, who is about to pop, Martha Tennant, a wisecracking Indigenous resident, Patricia Saunders, the doe-eyed sweet princess and Viv, who kicks off the series. Most of the introductions are subtle, so subtle that you have to read the credits to find out their last names.
The choice to have the series kick off with Viv having sex with a mystery man, presumably her boyfriend, wasn’t shocking or inappropriate, it was obvious and necessary. I felt that if the series kicked off with Viv arriving at Stanton House and working backwards would have been cliche and clunky, not to mention the series doesn’t aim to sugarcoat. Although it wouldn’t have been shocking for the time and context, I nevertheless found it astounding that parents would drug their own child to avoid shame. I felt that the subtle reveal of Viv being taken into Stanton House and Stanton House itself was done well.
I liked the writers’ choice to have the cold open be so sombre and contrast it with Joan’s introduction in sunny King’s Cross with optimism in her eyes and stride. I also liked her subtle introduction to Johnny and Shirley, as well as the emotional contrasts between Joan and Matron. I also liked the writers’ choice to not only introduce all the actors but also quickly provide some insight into the characters. Prime examples include hints of Joan’s reasons for coming back to Australia, by showing her upset at the sight of her engagement ring and only just stopping short of graduating with a medical degree, as well as the mystery revolving around the much-older Shirley.
I felt that the insight into what the victims of forced adoption were faced with, was done extremely well. Gracie Gilbert’s (Annie) performance was absolutely spectacular, seamlessly alternating between realistically powerful and heartwrenching at the right times.
I thoroughly enjoyed the humour in the Mike Jagger scenes, which establishes the setting of the series–July 1969. Sophie Hensser’s performance was also spectacular, playing almost every emotion on the spectrum. I enjoyed Viv giving her Mike Jagger picture to Annie, especially after their rocky start.
I loved the twist at the end of McNaughton adopting Annie’s baby, I’m looking forward to seeing where this storyline goes.
Overall this pilot was compelling and packed, however a little too packed with all the characters introduced at once and the multiple subplots and back stories. That being said I loved it.