A young woman from a poor village in China, Xiajia has come to England via a black-market agency to be a surrogate mother for a wealthy Chinese couple, living with them so they can supervise her pregnancy. Since the wife, Mrs Guo, is barren, Xiajia will be the child’s genetic mother. The film opens with Xiajia at her mid-pregnancy screening. Where for most mothers this is a wondrous moment, for Xiajia it is a reminder of her isolation. She in a foreign country, without friends or family, and even the child is not hers to keep. In her isolation, Xiajia has a burning desire to be seen. She looks to Mr Huang, the father of her child, reading into his small kindnesses. But as their relationship grows, she begins to fall into conflict with his wife. Mr Huang refuses to protect Xiajia, and hated by Mrs Guo, she is forced to flee. Pregnant and destitute, Xiajia thinks all is lost. But in this moment of desparation, she is met by God in a profound spiritual encounter. Here, she understands that she and her child are seen by God – and that is all they need.
Genesis 16 and 21. Most readers view the story of Hagar and Ishmael through the eyes of Abraham. OUR CHILD aims to reinterpret these passages with Hagar as the protagonist, placing the stories of Abraham and Sarah in the background. Hagar’s story is deeply unsettling. She is powerless; a slave, entirely under Sarai’s authority. Sarai gives Hagar to Abram so that they may have a child – and Hagar has no say. Xiajia’s story parallels this dynamic. Whilst she is able to choose to become a surrogate mother, she is powerless in other senses, economically destitute and completely isolated. The central story of OUR CHILD revolves primarily around Gen 16. Here we see Hagar “look[ing] with contempt on her mistress”. We can imagine that Hagar, as the future mother of Abram’s child, believes that she is at long last seen. Similarly, Xiajia looks to the child’s father in a desparate desire for recognition. But this rebellion causes Sarai to deal harshly with Hagar, and she flees to the wilderness where she learns that it was never Abram’s recognition which mattered. Instead, God sees her; and it is in God alone that she can be truly understood.