Thursday, 3 September 2020

Babyteeth (2019)

This Australian film, based on a play by Rita Kalnejais, could easily have been a tear-jerking 'Love Story' special, but the way in which the central role has been grasped by Eliza Scanlen has prevented it from such an outcome and genre. Yes, it is moving and poignant, but remains intelligent and character-driven.

Scanlen (Little Women 2019) plays the lead role, Milla, dying from cancer. Daughter in a complex family of psychiatrist dad and drug-dependent mum. Actually, most of the characters in the film flirt with or embrace drug-taking in some shape or form, either as a reaction to events or life generally. She knows that her days are numbered but she, along with the family, try to make the most of the days remaining for them.

She meets a local junkie and falls for him. And he, her. He's had a chequered past and has been thrown out by his family (presumably for drug-related behaviour). He kind-of lives on the streets until bumping into Milla. His name is Moses and is played by Toby Wallace. These pair become the main leads in the story and they present their parts admirably, especially Scanlen.

The parents don't know how to play it. They have their own problems in the marriage too and verge on flings and liaisons with others around them - her an old flame music teacher and him, a pregnant woman living across the street. As I say, it is character-rich and each one of them brings something interesting to the mix whilst we mostly focus on what's going on with our leading pair.

The emphasis of the story is about how people hang onto life and how the rest of us need to do so if we don't, valuing it highly and making the most of our time. The themes continue, bringing out the importance of family relationships and bonds - and how adjustment and tolerance need to be the flexible tools employed by all in order to make the best for everyone.

Director Shannon Murphy employs a fair amount of hand-held camerawork but unlike with some, this doesn't spoil the film, rather sits comfortably as it is used in appropriate scenes and settings. The film could also have been in danger of being too slow, but it's not, because the story-line and script keeps it on its toes and the audience interested.

The film is very enjoyable because it is that rich tapestry of interesting characters held together very strongly by Scanlen's performance and role. It is moving and thought-provoking but far from gushy and soppy. A very intelligent film which I highly recommend.

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