TV Review: ‘Return to Zero’

Lifetime Movie Review Return to Zero

Lifetime’s latest acquisition, “Return to Zero,” is a painful portrait of devastating loss, pivoting on a performance by Minnie Driver that acutely captures those raw feelings. Based on writer-producer-director Sean Hanish’s personal experience, the movie chronicles a couple dealing with a still-born baby and the consequences its aftermath produces on their relationship. While the Lifetime-movie crowd will no doubt be able to identify with the emotion, the movie gets a tad uneven in the later going, stumbling toward a resolution that begins to fray around the edges, despite a first-rate cast.

Maggie (Driver) and her husband Aaron (Paul Adelstein) have one of those picture-perfect lives, and they’re going through the usual mix of excitement and anxiety as they prepare for the birth of their first child. Moreover, her best pal (Andrea Anders) is also due a couple of months behind her, meaning there’s no shortage of showers and pastel-hued planning in their future.

After some unexpected bleeding, Maggie makes an ordinary doctor’s visit and discovers her baby has died in the womb. Understandably grief-stricken, the stress is only amplified by everything going on around her, with friends and family having no idea what to say in seeking to console her, and Aaron’s attempts to help falling thuddingly flat — “You can’t make this go any faster,” Maggie eventually protests to him — not that her friends or mother (Kathy Baker) fare much better in soothing her.

While it’s pretty wrenching stuff, it’s around this time that “Return to Zero” — true story or not — starts to take some Lifetime-like detours, from the tone-deaf callousness of Aaron’s dad/boss (Alfred Molina), who puts business ahead of everything; to Aaron’s dalliance with an attractive co-worker (Sarah Jones), coming off her own deflating run-in with a married man.

Finally, there’s that trip to Vegas where what happens between the central couple, at least in this case, won’t stay there, testing whether they can repair the damage and start over.

The long list of support groups and acknowledgements scrolling over the closing credits makes clear how deeply personal this project was, and Hanish deftly zeroes in on how all the preparation and enthusiasm surrounding a new baby magnifies the enormity of the parents’ pain here — as well as the different ways people cope, or don’t, with such events.

Certainly, the heartbreaking aspects of the story should strike a sympathetic chord. Yet in its final arc, “Return to Zero” can’t fully sustain its strengths with the depth of conviction necessary to find its way back and close the circle.

TV Review: 'Return to Zero'

(Movie; Lifetime, Sat. May 17, 8 p.m.)


Filmed in Los Angeles by Cannonball Prods.


Executive producer, Kelly Kahl; producers, Sean Hanish, Paul Jaconi-Biery; writer-director, Hanish; camera, Harris Charalambous; production designer, Edward L. Rubin; editor, Anita Brandt Burgoyne; music, James T. Sale; casting, Sharon Howard-Field, Ronnie Yeskel. 120 MIN.


Minnie Driver, Paul Adelstein, Alfred Molina, Connie Nielsen, Kathy Baker, Andrea Anders, Sarah Jones  

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  1. Tracy Smith says:

    I’m afraid you fail to see the meaning in the moments in this movie that, as you cal it, detour away from the power of the central event . The father focusing on business, the crap that comes out of the Grandmothers mouth, the attraction that appears between the husband and his colleague? These are all things that happen in the lives of a couple who have faced the sudden and shocking loss of a child. One so unexpected it changes the very essence of who they are, people with whom they don’t even know to relate. Everyone brushes it under the rug. Avoidance. The son wasn’t alive so no one had to say goodbye to a baby that was once alive. No one ever talks about it openly so we grow up not knowing how to address it, approach it or live with the fact that a human being we created will never breath the air around us. Every single event in this movie may not hold weight for those who have never experienced sih a loss, but it holds the weight of our worlds in every frame. Perhaps step back and stop seeing this film as a form of entertainment and see it as a form of education. To advocate for those who live daily with the hole that will always exist, but no one ever talks about.

  2. molly dolly says:

    After a recent rant, the creator of this movie is more concerned with DVD sales so he and his wife can get their principal back than actually helping people which is why I supported this project in the beginning. I no longer support it after he called those that innocently dvr’d or streamed the movie thieves and jerks and that he and his wife want nothing to do with them.

  3. Cheryl Bachmann says:

    I think perhaps the reason that the final arc never completes the circle is because after the death of a child, the circle never closes. You don’t get over it, you wear it every day. My son was born at 22 weeks gestation, and lived only a few short minutes. One of my support group friends commented that the grief is like lifting weights, it starts out heavy, and stays heavy, you just get better at lifting it. I thought the movie was an excellent portrayal of what has happened to so many of us who have lost children. Couples grieve differently, and it can be hard to find common ground again.

  4. New Mommy says:

    I had a stillborn daughter at 38 weeks almost 3 years ago, and I fell in that 50% of those where no explanation could be given. I too was low-risk, told I was healthy, told the baby was healthy, and then all of a sudden she was just gone. This is a heart wrenching nightmare that is unheard of and something you read about or think only happens to other people, until it happens to you. This movie captures so many events during and following the loss that are absolutely true to life, and I was stunned and relieved to finally be given a voice through such a public forum. From all the inappropriate and unwelcome comments from others, to marital problems (though cheating should never be tolerated), to anger and the unfairness of others easy breezy pregnancies, to family wanting you to move on before you’re ready, etc. There are so many unexpected obstacles that come up during and following this loss, and this movie touched on them all. This movie, though very difficult to watch, was so refreshing because of its raw truth and taboo topic that constantly gets swept under the rug so as not to “scare” unsuspecting pregnant women or just people in general who just want to live in an ignorant unscathed bubble and pretend things like this don’t happen. Well they do happen, quite a bit, and it should be all put out there so people are forced to see the pain that those few of us were forced to experience. Minnie Driver was excellent in her portrayal, as was the husband. Supporting players did well too, particularly Connie Nielsen. The writing was great and so clearly based on a true story. I particularly loved how she talked about loving the pain, because that’s all she has left of her son and the pain allows her to feel like she is being a mother to him. Also the anxiety in any subsequent pregnancy, and being unable and unwilling to bond with the next baby out of fear. I’ve since had another baby who came out fine, but the whole pregnancy was unpleasant and terrifying, something to get through instead of something to enjoy. I couldn’t bond with her until she was born, and us parents are robbed of ever having a happy pregnancy or child birth experience again. Return to Zero is an absolute must see, for any parents of angel babies gone too soon or anyone who wants to learn how to help a loved one heal from such a devastating loss.

  5. Dolores Brooks says:

    I was very interested, but a bit hesitant to see this movie, but it was a very true to life movie. My only daughter and her husband recently gave birth at 38 weeks to a stillborn son, Logan 10 months ago. The storyline and stages of grief brought me to tears, as it was exactly what they went through. They are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of their baby girl. It is great to see LifeTime make movies that reflect true life struggles.

  6. Judith says:

    Having had a stillborn in 1978 and wanting to see my baby and was not allowed. I am glad to see that they had the time to hold the baby so important. It bothers me to this day that I did not hold my baby. The emotions were so true movie was well done.

  7. debby says:

    I appreciate this movie. I appreciate the mother role talking about her loss of first trimester baby. That often overlooked as not being a real loss of a real baby. I appreciate that this was included in the movie.

  8. Danielle says:

    I appreciate Lifetime taking on this movie when no other would. This is a real tragic event that happens to thousands of people all over the world and no movie has ever touched upon the subject. Lifetime has made the step in the right direction and proved that this movie is worth the watch. Granted it is very sad, but again thousands of families have dealt with the tragic and very real issue of stillbirth and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought it would happen to me, until it did.

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