Rachel, an infertile woman, paid Molly to be a surrogate mother. Things do not go according to plan when Molly decides to keep the baby, called Hester. Even though Hester has the DNA of Rachel and her husband, Molly is regarded as the legal mother. In the aftermath of the legal battle over the rights to Hester, Rachel is left devastated and starts stalking Molly. She figures out Molly’s schedule and is able to steal Hester from her. Rachel and Hester share a few intimate moments before the police arrive. When they break in, Rachel threatens to jump out the window if they try to take Hester. Sophie, a bereavement counselor, and Molly, try to persuade Rachel not to jump. Rachel holds onto Hester and argues she’s hers since they share the same DNA. Rachel also claims she can give Hester so much more than Molly, who lives in a council flat. As Molly is afraid that Rachel might hurt Hester, she tells Rachel to keep her, as long as she’s safe. In the end, Sophie can make Rachel see that her behaviour is toxic for Hester. When Rachel realises this, she breaks down and hands over Hester to Sophie.
“Hester” adapts the Judgement of Solomon to a modern context to address contemporary issues around DNA and parenthood. This film is about Gestational Surrogacy, a type of surrogacy where the surrogate mother shares no DNA with the child. The UK law does stipulate that even if they’re not genetically related, the surrogate mother is the legal mother. This film adds to this debate. Two women regard themselves mother of the same child, one sharing its DNA, the other having grown the baby inside her. This deeply feminine narrative opts for a dialectal approach, portraying both sides of the argument. Whereas in the original story the two mothers remain anonymous, this story wants to put them at the core. Moreover, Solomon has become female: the bereavement counselor, Sophie. These three women’s interactions show the different sides of motherhood and the female body. But the story goes further than this. When the three women have a conversation at the end, they explore the definitions of love, care, and family. Rachel bases her right to Hester not only on shared DNA, but also on the material things she is able to offer. The question is raised whether DNA is really equivalent to parenthood.