Babyteeth: Film Review

Babyteeth

I caught Shannon Murphy‘s directorial debut Babyteeth at the London Film Festival last year (it showed in Venice after I left booo!) and it is finally getting a U.K. release!

Eliza Scanlen portrays Milla, a 16-year-old schoolgirl and violinist who is battling cancer. One day she meets drug addict and dealer Moses (Toby Wallace) and falls for him, much to her parents’ horror. However, Anna (Essie Davis) and Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) come to realise that Milla has more fun in Moses’ company so have to grow accustomed to him coming round the house.

It was hard to know what Milla saw in Moses, whether she genuinely loved him or if he just gave her an opportunity to rebel and have some excitement in her short life. And for his part, you never really know if Moses genuinely cares for Milla or if he is just using her for her access to pills. Her parents are put in a tough spot because they want to give her everything she wants in the time she has left but doesn’t want her hanging out with a much older guy who is a drug dealer who steals from their hefty pill supply.

I knew Scanlen was one to watch with her supporting role in TV miniseries Sharp Objects, alongside Amy Adams, and she delivers another extraordinary performance in her movie debut. I can’t wait to see where her career goes. Mendelsohn was the most moving member of the cast and really got me at the end while Davis capably handled the showier role of the mum with her own mental health issues. Wallace won an award for his role at Venice and it’s easy to see why – his performance felt so raw and natural and he’s very in touch with his emotions.

If you think you know what this film will be like, I can assure you it is very different from other teenage cancer movies. It doesn’t hit all the usual beats or tick off all the tropes and has an unusual tone for such a subject – there is some levity and dark humour in there. It is described as a comedy, but I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. It’s a drama with plenty of lightness. This is refreshing because most films with a similar subject matter are serious and bleak and really work hard to get viewers to cry. Despite its different tone, I still managed to tear up!

The film isn’t told in the most mainstream way, so it won’t appeal to everybody, and it is a bit too long, but your patience is rewarded at the end. The last 10-15 minutes are so gripping and moving. Babyteeth is a powerful and engrossing story which boasts four impressive lead performances.

Originally seen during the 2019 London Film Festival. In cinemas Friday 14th August 

Rating: 3.5/5

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