Subhash K Jha reviews Babyteeth

Review of Babyteeth: Love It or Hate It, Can’t Ignore It

Babyteeth (Video On Demand)

Starring Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder.Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn

Directed by Shannon Murphy

Rating: ***

To be honest, I don’t know whether I liked Babyteeth or not. That doesn’t make it a bad film. It definitely needs to be viewed for its never-before cinematic language. Startlingly original would be an understatement. The film’s narrative language is a blend of casual realism and heightened fantasy, a device that renders reality redundant. Because it all seems like a deductible dream derived from a staged opera where the characters are the opposite of grand just because …well, they are like that. They can’t help it.

The film opens on a railway station where our heroine, a terminally ill teenager named Milla(Eliza Scanlen) meets Moses(Toby Wallace). He is a homeless drug addict and every parent’s worst nightmare. No wonder Milla’s parents, played with acoustic appropriateness by Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn, are far from pleased when Milla comes home with Moses. She wants her parent like him, accept him. She wants Moses to be on the family breakfast table. Call it a dying daughter’s demand. But who can say no to Milla?

All this sounds like fodder for ferocious laughter and to a certain extent the film is furiously funny in ways that cannot described in words. For instance, how do I explain the sequence where Milla’s father, a psychiatrist, sprints out of the room while conversing with a patient, goes to his pregnant neighbour’s home to change her light-bulb, ends up on the floor and then suddenly finds himself kissing his pregnant neighbour whose dog has the same name as Milla’s father(Henry).

Consider the components in the above sequence—a shrink’s couch, a light bulb,a pregnant woman who has the hots for the shrink, a dog named Henry…It’s all too bizarre to hold together, yet it does. This fiercely original film open its arms to embrace the sheer randomness of life. There are no easy ways to define the moods that govern the journey of this quirky and whimsical film filled with a sharp ray of sun that cuts across the sense of doom.

Doom, yes, but never gloomy Babyteeth possesses the kind of unique energy that cinema has seldom seen. It contains passages of lyrical beauty undercut by a sudden swerve into savage satire that leaves us confused. It is the story of very young girl who must experience all that life has to offer before she dies.

While time runs out on Milla there is no such pressure on the film. Director Shanon Murphy focuses on long lingering shots of sea waves and speeding trains. While life goes in unpredictable ways the world seems a better place when seen through eyes that are not cynical but not exactly brimming over with compassion either. Rude and gentle at the same time. Babyteeth is an experience that can’t be put into words.

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