I haven’t seen writer/director Hilary Brougher’s previous Sticky Fingers of Time, but this one is a real movie — conceived, shot and cut with sensitivity and assurance. The subject is Stephanie Daley’s competence to stand trial for her role in the death of her fetus. Amber Tamblyn plays the title character, a 16-year-old who’s dubbed the “Ski Mom” in tabloid-speak after her miscarriage on the side of a snowy mountain in upstate New York. Tilda Swinton plays Lydie Crane, a forensic psychologist working for the prosecution — and expecting her own child — who questions Stephanie about the incident while carrying her own pregnancy-related baggage.
If some of the drama, growing out of flashbacks to Stephanie’s high-school days and uneasy conversations between Lydie and her husband (Timothy Hutton), is a little flat, Brougher makes up for it with key sequences late in the film that touch nerves and bring her real subject into focus. (The inspired, repeated use of a Wrens song called “Everyone Chooses Sides” may indicate Brougher’s dismay at society’s black-and-white approach to such cases.) My line on this one is that it’s the scariest movie about childbearing since the original Alien — a sort of psychological horror film that crosses the everyday terrors of human biology with the chilly question of who bears legal responsibility for tragedy.