DIRECTOR: Shannon Murphy (debut)
STARRING: Eliza Scanlen, michelle lotters, toby wallace and sora wakaki
REVIEWER: purdie picot
Milla, a seriously ill teenager falls in love with a drug dealer, Moses, her parents worst nightmare.
Babyteeth follows Milla, a teenage girl whose serious illness isn’t holding her back from trying to live her life and find some happiness. This happiness, much to the disappointment of her parents, happens to be with the early-20s small-time drug dealer Moses. Henry and Anna, Milla’s parents have their own struggles beyond their ill daughter, joined by an interesting cast of side characters, Babyteeth is the coming-of-age flick that will make you feel the full spectrum of emotions.
Dysfunctionally functional is how you’d describe this delightful Australian family. The coming-of-age genre is tried and true, a teenage girl trying to seek her own brand of happiness while navigating the difficult terrain of school, parents, peers and love. Throwing in a terrible illness adds a refreshing mix, mix in some ‘barely holding it together’ parents and the charismatic Moses and you have a unique cocktail of emotions. While I found there were a lot more laughs and heartwarming moments in Babyteeth, I am thankful for the long pause at the end before the cinema lights came up so I could gather myself and wipe away the tears.
The leads, Eliza Scanlen and Toby Wallace, were fantastic. There were a couple of times when Milla broke the fourth wall and looked down the camera, you just felt her emotions, that distinct feeling of “are you seeing this?”. Like most teenage girls, her emotions breaking that surface, glances and dejected looks, the pure frustration of navigating those extra turbulent waters. Wallace as Moses was equally fantastic, he brought the burn-out, drug using, yet charismatic and caring character to life. Chemistry flowed between the two, and as the title cards of each chapter said, love grew.
Visually the film really pushed towards the feeling of book reading escapism. There were lingering shots of the beautiful home, birds feeding, and the intimate moments (filmed with handycam, making them feel even more personal). These moments allowed that pause, a time to breathe and reflect; accompanied by title cards throughout the film indicating the next moment of plot, it really felt like sitting down to read a book in the best way a film could. Running at two hours as well, quite long for an indie film, it took it’s time but didn’t drag on unnecessarily. The stand out visual moment would be the party that Milla and Moses go to, Milla finally just having a moment to feel like a normal teenage girl while surrounded by dance music and light projections, an encounter with a performance artist acts as the interlude before the tense run towards another climax of the film.
One distracting thing that took me away from the film was how incredible the house was. I am a big fan of that backyard pool but more so of the beautiful garden in the centre of the house and all the glass walls looking in. The large plants growing offer some cover, but the lack of privacy through living areas reflects how the family may try to have secrets but nothing is ever truly hidden from each other.
These characters while just a little bit bigger and zannier than everyday, there is distinct familiarity with each of them. When one of the side characters are introduced it’s like coming across an acquaintance, something recognisable but still able to surprise. That being said, I know a dead ringer for Gidon the music tutor.
Babyteeth is an absolutely fantastic film, I adore coming-of-age flicks and this has its own distinct style which makes me want to come back again. I enjoyed the fleeting moment of watching MIlla grow up, discover who she is and what happiness is for her. And I would also love to raid the costume department, unique pieces and bright colours aplenty!
Pursuing happiness and love is only complicated by family and illness, Babyteeth is a film that proves life is possible.