Title – Babyteeth (2019)
Director – Shannon Murphy (feature debut)
Cast – Eliza Scanlan, Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis, Toby Wallace
Plot – Seriously ill teenager Milla (Scanlan) and her parents Anna (Davis) and Henry (Mendelsohn) struggle to maintain their sanity in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds but salvation for Milla appears to come in the form of troubled older boy Moses (Wallace) who strikes up a friendship with Milla per chance.
“I’m a bit freaked out by that”
Review by Eddie on 31/08/2020
We’ve seen a number of teenager’s with a sickness coming of age films over the years, ranging from darkly humorous to downright devastating, with new Australian film Babyteeth attempting to walk the line between both as it examines the life of its main protagonist Milla as the teenage girl battles her cancer and her life growing into an adult.
Directed by Shannon Murphy, in what acts as her feature debut after work in famed TV shows such as Killing Eve and Rake, Babyteeth is an impressive first-up effort from the emerging local talent who manages to ensure that Babyteeth is at all times unpredictable and original, even if it bites off a little more than it can chew at times with its excessive oddness and strange plot developments.
Collecting together an all-star cast that includes Australian legends Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn (always a pleasure to watch when given the right material to work with) and soon to be stars Eliza Scanlan as Milla and the rats-tail sporting Toby Wallace as Milla’s new friend/love interest Moses, Murphy’s material was clearly strong enough to attract some serious talent, who all deliver knock-out performances as a dysfunctional family and group of friends that are trying their best to keep their heads above water in this crazy world.
Wasting little time introducing us to the world that Milla finds herself in, one with drug addled parents trying to stay strong for their only daughter, chemo and the junkie that is Moses who might just be Milla’s saving grace in her dark time, Babyteeth doesn’t attempt to follow a linear or predictable story-line as the free-spirited Milla makes her way through various situations that at times are confronting, awkward and even moving.
It’s an odd balancing act for the film to maintain, many scenes in the film feel completely removed from the one before it or after it and at stages you do begin to wish that the film may’ve stayed the course a little longer in certain areas with lots of backstories and plot developments feeling rather arbitrary to the greater good of the film.
Many of the elements of Murphy’s film also feel like you need to be willing to suspended disbelief more often than not, particularly Milla’s families acceptance of a thieving and much older Moses into their lives that makes you wonder if the family is on much stronger medication that one initially expected but when its focus is on the very human and relatable relationships that appear in the film and with Davis, Mendelsohn, Scanlan and Wallace all knocking their performances out of the park, there are enough strong elements here to suggest Babyteeth is the birth of a very talented director and a further reminder of the incredible talent that exists in our country.
Final Say –
Make no doubt about it, Babyteeth is an odd beast and a unique take on the sickness dramedy sub-genre but its got enough stand-out moments and array of fine performances that ensure its one of the years best local products.
3 light bulbs out of 5