It’s 1999: local lawyer-slash-politician Hannah and her partner, coffee shop owner Jules, want a baby. They go down the adoption route and, with the addition of toddler Beau (the eponymous Rain Beau) a couple becomes a family.
It transpires that Beau has a rare genetic condition which may predispose him to violence, a theory that looks to be vindicated throughout the movie where, at various junctures over the next 15 years or so, Beau’s aggressive behaviour becomes all too apparent at both home and school. Interestingly, the condition – 47, XYY – has now been shown not to cause behavioural problems, raising questions about the age-old nature vs. nurture debate and, more intriguingly, whether labelling children in their early years (the naughty one, the adventurous one, the gentle one and so on) impacts ongoing behaviour. In other words, is Beau’s (mis)diagnosis a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Self-fulfilling prophesy or not, Beau has a catastrophic effect on Jules’ and Hannah’s personal and professional lives. Neither of them will quite admit to regretting the adoption and, as they become all the more consumed by managing their increasingly out of control son, you can see the joy draining out of their lives as the ravages of coping with their wayward child become etched ever more deeply on their weight-of-the-world faces.
We see nothing and hear very little of Beau, a dramatic device which allows the audience to experience the story solely through the impact he has on others. Some outstanding films have adopted the same approach: Hitchcock’s 1939 Rebecca (let us never speak of the appalling 2020 remake) and Cukor’s 1944 classic Gaslight spring to mind (both Rebecca and Alice were dead, so not quite the same thing), while we never get to see Rosemary’s baby in Rosemary’s Baby or the third man in The Third Man (don’t write in…Harry Lime is NOT the third man).
Director Tracy Wren’s decision to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest directors that have ever lived is brave…but it works: because Beau exists only through the perception of the other characters, our empathy with Hannah and Jules is dialled up to 11, unsullied by any emotional relationship with Beau.
Janelle Snow as Hannah and Amanda Powell as Jules are entirely believable as the put-upon parents; we’re rooting for them all the way as their lives become a never-ending, 24/7 roller-coaster of crisis management while, at the same time, thanking all that is holy that it’s them not us navigating this god-awful predicament. A-list support from Sean Young and scene-stealing curmudgeonliness from Ed Asner add depth and some serious quality.
Rain Beau’s End’s final few scenes are probably a little over-sentimental for a British audience but that’s a tiny criticism of what is, by and large, a solid, thought-provoking piece of work.
Rain Beau’s End is available worldwide on Lesflicks VOD from 8 March.