The 11th Hour takes the pressure of “having it all” to a new extreme. Kim Basinger is Maria, a successful businesswoman with a luxury apartment, a handsome husband and a generous bank account. After her eighth miscarriage, she is devastated. Her buttoned-up existence is unraveling and she has no choice but do something drastic—and illegal. She buckles into her Porsche and sets off for the Czech border, where she plans to buy a sex worker’s unwanted baby. The scenario is improbable and ethically reprehensible, but somehow Basinger’s single-mindedness is believable. With The 11th Hour, Danish writer/director Anders Morgenthaler makes a dramatic, if exaggerated, impression with this bleak thriller about one woman’s mission to be a mother, no matter the cost.

Basinger’s career isn’t as robust as it used to be, but she proves a resilient performer. Clothed, unclothed, sobbing and searching, Basinger’s Maria is the driving force behind The 11th Hour and Morgenthaler’s camera rarely leaves her side. She’s nicely complemented by Petit (Jordan Prentice), a little person whom she picks up at a rest stop. He’s a drifter, low on cash and suffering from a nasty heroin habit. Morgenthaler could have cultivated some kind of oddball bond between Maria and Petit, but he thankfully avoids that cliché. Instead, they spar. When Maria asks for help buying (or maybe stealing) a baby, Petit storms away, disgusted. She offers Petit $10,000 and he agrees, but their relationship is a partnership, not a friendship. These are headstrong characters looking out for their own desires.

The 11th Hour is embedded with mysticism as an unseen child speaks to Maria in moments of distress. The whispery voice calls her “Mommy” and the child’s simple pronouncements become fuel for Maria’s journey. It’s a little gimmicky, but in a way, it works. As Petit and Maria wade into a world of prostitutes and Russian mafia, the film reaches a deadly and overwrought climax. It’s grimy and theatrical, but for all his darkness, Morgenthaler leaves us with a spark of hope, turning The 11th Hour from tragedy to fairy tale.

Basinger is the star but it’s Morgenthaler who steals the show. A Danish director with a background in animation, his shots reveal a Hitchcockian attention to detail. He even includes a shot of blood flowing into a shower drain. Like Hitchcock’s Marion Crane, Maria is journeying away from her familiar life into dicey moral territory. However, Morgenthaler’s work is not without flaws. His dreamlike sequences of Maria’s mourning, sleeping and driving are artfully shot but overlong and potentially sleep-inducing. While Maria’s presence is strong, her backstory is not. Morgenthaler often leaves us guessing about what exactly is going on. It makes for a tight but not wholly developed narrative.

Pregnancy has always been fertile ground for storytelling. It can be comedic (Knocked Up), romantic (Nine Months) or creepy (Rosemary’s Baby). There’s a certain level of skepticism involved when a man writes and directs a film about motherhood, but Mergenthaler does a convincing job portraying Maria’s maternal instinct. It’s over-the-top, there’s no doubt about that, but its intensity never devolves into ridicule. Morgenthaler directs with precision, artistry and above all, sincerity. He takes his characters as seriously as they take themselves, and The 11th Hour is a promising, if imperfect, paean to motherhood.

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