Come Worry With Us (not a great title) the other night at the Melbourne Film Festival.
There was something so gratifying for me in seeing this film — not only because (much like Mary Trunk's film Lost in Living) it was such a perfect actual and visual representation of all the themes and ideas in The Divided Heart. But also because I felt like it backed up the original impetus for my book: that motherhood can be challenging for all working women, but has its own very particular set of difficulties for artists.
I often got what seemed a very defensive reaction from potential publishers (and, later, reviewers) to my desire to focus on artists — the whole “what makes you so special?” question — when I never understood why delving into the specific experience of one group of people was in any way devaluing the experiences of others. Neither did I assume there wasn’t plenty of cross-over with the experiences of non-artists, but I still strongly believe that the kind of dedication any creative practice requires makes for a particularly fraught situation for those who want or have children.
Come Worry With Us perhaps presents an extreme version of this situation in focusing on a couple who are bandmates in an experimental rock group, Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra — a band dedicated to both creative and personal integrity. Their boisterous, largely instrumental (though with vocal elements) music has a small but faithful audience and they intentionally keep ticket prices to a
minimum. With baby Ezra in the mix, they remain dedicated to their decision to share both income and costs evenly, including those related to touring with a toddler.
Having a child proves the ultimate challenge not only on a practical level for parents Jessica and Efrim, but also on an ethical one. They are
confronted with the way a child demands a different kind of engagement with the conventional world, especially on the financial front.
As father Efrim says, the world of touring musicians is the opposite to everything a child requires: they are stuck in a bus when he should be outside running about and they are working when they should be getting their child to bed. And the cost of the bus and the nanny almost cancels out any money they make.
That said, amid the obvious trials, some of the loveliest scenes are those between little Ezra and his parents' bandmates, who are like second parents to him, and witnessing his own growing love of music.
The film illustrates the seemingly inevitable gender division that occurs after having a baby, all the more dramatic for a couple who has never subscribed to traditional roles and been very much equals. In the early days after their baby’s birth, for practical reasons, Jessica stays home with baby Ezra while Efrim tours with his other band.
Despite this split, I found myself somewhat irritated by father Efrim’s insistence that while Jessica was doing much of the hands-on care, he was bearing the brunt of the anxiety about providing for his family. While his financial concerns were real, she expresses similar fears about the threat to her creative endeavours and the need to find more stable work.
At one point Jessica’s best friend, a visual artist, makes the astute comment that while she’d like to have kids, she thinks she’d much rather be a father than a mother.
Jessica really sums up the central dilemma when she asks: “How can I be the kind of mother I want to be and keep doing the thing I love? Is it selfish or is it the best thing to do for your kid — showing them that you’re doing what you love?”