Every day we try to find something positive and something to hold onto. Whether it’s receiving great news, having an uplifting conversation with a friend, or coming together with family for a wonderful time, we try to make the best of it.
There are days during which this is easier than during others. Milla knows that like no one else. She has to battle against a terrible disease and so her life has become an even more emotional roller coaster with high and lows.
Her story is now coming to life in the incredibly powerful “Babyteeth”, the first full-length feature from director Shannon Murphy. While the start of the movie might be a little bit all over the place, the middle and certainly the end make up for that. So just bite through it because it will be worth it in the end.
Being on the train station platform isn’t life-changing but on that particular day, it certainly was for the young Milla (Eliza Scanlen). After bumping into drugs dealer Moses (Toby Wallace), her ordinary and traditional life collides with his rough and dark one. They help each other out and that’s the beginning of their love story.
These totally different people grow closer but that’s certainly not to the liking of her conservative parents. When Milla brings Moses home to meet her parents, dark secrets are appearing and not only the ones of Moses. No, Milla’s mum Anna (Essie Davis) is struggling with a mental disease and Milla’s father Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) is having problems with his marriage.
The more Milla and Moses fancy each other, the darker the secrets become, the higher the tension rises and the more emotional the lives get. Right when things couldn’t get any worse, Milla has a relapse…
We don’t have to tell you that this movie is all about human emotions, judging books (or in this case: people) by its cover and dealing with a serious disease. To pull off a story like this, the movie needs actors who can perform those strong emotions, a fluent editing-cinematography combination, and a touching score that will keep the audience captivated. Well, that’s exactly what “Babyteeth” has.
First of all, there’s the incredible cast led by the remarkable Scanlen (“Little Women”). With her stunningly balanced performance, she shows us the naivety and stubbornness of her character as well as the desperate, angry, and anxious feelings Milla is going through.
We also want to congratulate costume designer Amelia Gebler (“Other Life”, “Madly”) and the entire makeup department for making Scanlen look dazzling in many different ways. It’s no surprise that Toby Wallace (“Acute Misfortune”, “Boys in the Trees”) already won three awards for his performance in “Babyteeth”. He portrays both the vulnerable as well as the darker side of Moses beautifully. Wallace makes you always wonder whether Moses really cares about Milla or that he just wants to take advantage of her, her lifestyle, and her parents.
When we meet Anna, we get the impression that she’s just passionate, eccentric and extrovert but when her story is being told, we discover that those mood swings and the explosiveness are caused by her illness and the medication.
Thanks to the striking performance of Davis (“True History of the Kelly Gang”, “Mindhorn”), we learn every emotional state Anna is going through. No matter how good or bad her character feels, Davis is always capable of adding that motherly touch to her performance.
After a small mishap with “Robin Hood”, Mendelsohn (“The King”, “Captain Marvel”) is back again with a bang (and a moustache). We got to know the dilemma his character faces in an extremely captivating way. As a husband and father, Henry needs to make sure that both his wife and daughter get the medical treatment they deserve but as a psychologist, he needs to look after himself both mentally and physically which seems very difficult. It’s especially during the last part of this movie that Mendelsohn shows every emotion of the emotional spectrum stunningly.
Apart from the emotions, there’s also the perfect cinematography-editing combination that makes sure that the audience can resonate strongly with this story. DoP Andrew Commis (“Angel of Mine”, “Girl Asleep”) uses quite a lot of wide shots which creates an open space and a welcoming feeling. The family embraces you, even though they all have secrets they rather don’t want to share with the audience.
Together with the quirky but very effective editing by Stephen Evans (“Suburban Mayhem”, “Cool”), the viewers can easily put themselves in the shoes of the leading characters. Every time you think you’ve figured the characters out, there’s something unexpected and new you can explore.
Last up, there’s the wonderfully chosen score. Whether it’s with the well-known song “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers or the more original numbers performed by Scanlen, they all contribute to the movie wonderfully.
“Babyteeth” was screened during film festivals (which we dearly miss) such as the Venice Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, and Chicago International Film Festival. It’s now returning to the UK cinemas and if you haven’t seen it yet, go and check it out as fast as you can. The top-notch cast and the incredibly skilful crew make from “Babyteeth” a wonderful, moving, and emotional movie you want to stick your teeth into.