Babyteeth (2019)

Director: Shannon Murphy
Writer: Rita Kalnejais
Cast: Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder, Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn
Seen on: 1.11.2020

Milla (Eliza Scanlen) meets Moses (Toby Wallace) quite by chance and is immediately drawn to his reckless way of approaching life. Moses, on the other hand, sees Milla as a good opportunity to maybe get some cash off of her. But when Milla gets a nosebleed, he helps and they end up spending the day together. When Milla brings Moses home for dinner, her parents Anna (Essie Davis) and Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) are horrified. Intensely protective of their daughter, because she is young and she is very sick, unkempt Moses seems like the biggest threat. And when Moses steals some drugs from them to sell them, their fears are confirmed. But Milla is unwilling to let go of Moses. No matter what her parents or even Moses say about it.

Babyteeth was my last cinema visit in this year of the pest and I could have definitely chosen a worse film to complete the cinema roster this year. It is a sweet film that manages to find some fresh new aspects to a story that isn’t all that new anymore.

The film poster showing Milla (Eliza Scanlen) sitting next to a pool, wearing a wig, looking up at the sky.

Babyteeth gives us the story of a first love under extreme circumstances. Milla knows that her time is very limited and that gives her the strength to fight everyone to experience being in love for real once in her life. That includes Moses who is older than Milla and really doesn’t want any responsibility and he simply isn’t in love with her, too. But he, too, has to bow to Milla’s will. This may sound harsh, but somehow the film makes it into a tender act of willing submission.

But I have to admit that I was even more drawn in by Milla’s parents. Watching Anna and Henry trying to deal with this, frankly, impossible situation – it’s quite something. They don’t always do it well, but they always find back to what is important: loving each other, and holding on to each other. I don’t know if Davis and Mendelsohn had much of a relationship before this film, but they manage to make Anna and Henry and their relationship with each other feel utterly real and anchored by joint history.

Milla (Eliza Scanlen) in a blond wig and Moses (Toby Wallace) with colorful lights on them.

In fact, it is the perfect chemistry between these four characters and the way the film ties together love and hurt, cherishing vulnerability even if it’s risky and leads to pain, often unwillingly, that really make it work, and that make it into something else than just another teen film with a dying girl in it.

It is not a perfect film. Sometimes it’s a little too on the nose, sometimes it’s a little long. But it is a strong and beautiful movie with absolutely fantastic performances. I have definitely seen worse.

Milla (Eliza Scanlen) with her hair cut short in a wild way, looking sceptical.

Summarizing: tender.

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