"The moment we hit 35, you have decide to have a child or it will be too late"

Naomi Gordon
Photo credit: Aimee Spinks

From Red Online

"The moment we hit 35, you have decide to have a child or it will be too late... Yet, what we've been told from our teenage years that getting pregnant is the worst thing that can happen to you, it's drilled in to us from such a young age.. And then suddenly it goes from 'don't get pregnant' to 'you better get pregnant', or you've missed your chance."

Gemma Chan's frustrated monologue in her film I Am Hannah detangles oppressive societal pressures that women face when it comes to having children, and the often unobtainable expectations we place on ourselves to be a great success both professionally and in our personal lives, will no doubt resonate with many women in their 30s.

Chan plays an ambitious lawyer who begins to contemplate whether she wants to settle down and have a child, while absorbing the endless white noise of external pressures, judgement and 'biological clock' reminders from family members, new-parent friends, and even potential suitors. "I just don't want you to miss out", her mother tells her sombrely during a particular low-point in Hannah's week.

The film is the final part of an anthology series which have been developed in partnership with its leading actors - Line of Duty's Vicky McClure stars in I am Nicola, and Samantha Morton leads I am Kirsty - and BAFTA-winning writer and director Dominic Savage.

The trilogy explores the experience of three women in moments that are emotionally raw, thought-provoking and very personal.

Photo credit: Aimee Spinks

Hannah is dating and seems fulfilled with her demanding job, but to appease her mother - and placate her own concerns about her future - she enquires about getting her eggs frozen. But the process isn't as clearcut as we've been conditioned to believe.

The relatable and unflinching story - and one we rarely see portrayed sensitively from a woman's perspective - is a close collaboration between Chan and Savage, and Chan's emotional and conflicting aforementioned outpouring wasn't word for word from a script, but drawn from her own experiences of adolescence and adulthood.

"It felt very exposing," Chan told Red magazine. "There was something about this [film] that... I had to block out what we'd done [after filming]. By the end, I felt like I'd lost a layer of skin - my nerves were on the outside, and I went to do something else and tried to forget about it...

"A lot of the stuff that comes up in this are issues that have come up with girlfriends, my mum, my sister... I definitely have friends who have felt under similar pressures to what Hannah's going through. I wouldn't say my experience is completely the same at all, there are a lot of differences, but it's definitely drawn from life."

Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images

The film is an uncomfortable exploration of how our society paws and prods at a woman's choice over whether or not - or when - to become a mother, and subtly ponders on how we've let something so private become so public, which can compel even complete strangers to ask women about their plans around having children.

The drama reasons that the subject of motherhood should be handled with care, sensitivity, and most importantly, without judgement from others.

"It's interesting that women do get asked a lot about what their plans are, whether they're going to have kids, are they planning to get pregnant," the actress continued. "I do think maybe we should be more aware that that is someone else's business, and we shouldn't be asking them.

"We have a natural inclination to compare, and that instinct - of course you're happy for your friends but it does make you think of your own choice, 'am I happy, have I made the right decision?' Its tricky and my only take away from it all is that we should be less judgemental about others and of ourselves as well."

Photo credit: Aimee Spinks - Channel 4

I Am Hannah also aims to detach the stigma and the myths associated with egg freezing, while giving a realistic insight to the complex procedure - the doctor who examines Chan's Hannah and explains the process is a real doctor.

"I found that the process of doing that - and of course Dr. Saris is, of course, is a real doctor - it was very educational for me to kind of go through that as if it were real," the Crazy Rich Asians star revealed. "I was surprised at some of the figures. It's true what he says about how it's not a fail-safe.

"It's an insurance policy but it's not definitely going to pay out every time. I feel like women need to be given all the information and that's important. I learned a lot through doing it."

Ultimately, Chan's film advocates self-acceptance and self-worth no matter what a woman's 'status' is.

"I don't know I have a specific hope for what this story might do for anyone, I only hope people can watch it and empathise with all the women in the story, and watch it without judgement," she concluded.

I am Hannah airs on Channel 4 at 10pm on Tuesday, August 6.

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