Babyteeth is a coming of age story with teeth, pun intended. It is a surprising and striking directorial debut film by Shannon Murphy based on the screenplay, and play, by Rita Kalnejais with a great cast.
Milla (Eliza Scanlen) is a sixteen year old whose been diagnosed with cancer. She lives in the suburbs, middle class and with little time left disrupts her status quo by falling in love with a drug dealer, Moses (Toby Wallace).
This is as subversive as coming of ages stories get. Babyteeth subverts what you expect a 16 year old who is taking chemo to behave like. Then again she does have a lot of living to do in what little time she has left, so as with all good teenagers who go completely off the rails. She falls in love with Moses who her parents invite to live with them. Eliza Scanlen as Milla and Toby Wallace are both electrifying on screen. Essie Davis as the mother and psychiatrist father (Ben Mendelsohn) as Henry are so good to watch.
Whilst this is a coming of age story, it’s not just focused on Milla’s journey but that of her parents. They too have a lot of growing up to do not least the father who as a psychiatrist should have the answers but is actually the most mentally fragile of the group. Babyteeth’s narrative is episodic and that works well as a metaphor for showing how fleeting life is so every memory is a snapshot of a moment. One of the most poignant scenes comes at the end when Milla is taking photos of her parents.
Babyteeth is challenging and visceral and the metaphor of baby teeth is subtle and strikes you just as the film ends. One loses them just as your new permanent ones grow, and one of the central themes of the film is growth. Colour and light are used in a bold way throughout the film to also tell strands of the story and reflect the moods that Milla goes through. It’s so vivid and plaudits should go to the colourist and cinematographer.
Ultimately Babyteeth is a visceral and challenging coming of age story that reminds us all that we shouldn’t take life for granted. It is filled with humour and great acting and should be watched by all
Babyteeth came out in cinemas on Friday 14 August.
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