Babyteeth: A Spoiler Review

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It’s been nearly two years since I last wrote a blog post, and I’ll post a catch up in due course but right now I need to talk about Shannon Murphy’s directorial debut Babyteeth, the film that has recently become my favourite film of all time.

I’ve always been a fan of a coming-of-age drama, whether it be a hidden gem or one that has become beloved by teenagers and adults worldwide. Babyteeth has taken my perception of this genre and blown every other film out of the water. There is simply nothing I disliked about this film. The main thing I feel needs to be addressed is how wrong every description of it is. Yes, on the surface it is about a terminally ill teenager and a small time drug dealer, but this film is so much more than that. From the first 5 seconds of the trailer, I could see that, so trying to describe this to someone without them having seen anything about the film is exhausting.

What I loved about Babyteeth was how unashamedly raw it is. Murphy did not shy away from or dwell on the complex issues it undertakes, whether that be a scene depicting the start of a recovery from addiction, or the way in which Milla’s relapse was portrayed, with both scenes being delivered phenomenally by the two lead actors (Eliza Scanlen and Toby Wallace) and by the supporting cast in the latter. Milla’s parents are both complex characters themselves, and both performances by the already acclaimed Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis are captivating. I cried through the entire last 45 minutes of the film both times I’ve watched it, and it was these two actors in particular that really affected me, especially when it came to Milla’s death.

Milla’s death contributed to moments from the film that will not leave my head, no matter how much they hurt me to think about. The way Milla’s father Henry stood there, knowing something was wrong from the strange way Moses was speaking, as well as Milla’s mother Anna and Moses sobbing as they sank to the floor while Henry took care of Milla’s dead body were incredibly hard to watch. The same could be said for the entire beach scene at the end. If I was to pick out one scene that really broke me though, it would have to be the “What the dead said to Milla”. Eliza Scanlen brought me to tears with just her facial expressions, as this entire scene is silent and focusses just on Milla. Although it is short, it was this moment each time I saw it that made my slow tears turn into ugly heaves.

There is so much to rave about in terms of symbolism and foreshadowing. The tooth sinking to the bottom of the glass comes to mind, as it is the opening scene that is then later depicted just before Milla loses her virginity, but I want to talk about both smothering scenes. Milla and Moses’ first and last days with each other both involved some sort of smothering, and the roles completely reversed between them. At first, it was Moses smothering Milla with his t-shirt so her nosebleed doesn’t ruin her clothes, resulting in Milla telling him to get the t-shirt off her face. Then, in their final night together, Milla asks Moses to smother her with a pillow, and this time it is him reluctant to do so, and him that stops it. Toby Wallace is a sensational actor, as I discovered watching The Society last year, and this is one of his standout scenes from the film. From his pleas of “please don’t ask me to do this” to the single teardrop when Milla doesn’t realise that this ask is breaking him, he defined himself in my mind as one of the greatest young actors I’ve seen in a long time.

As you may be able to tell, I could go on forever about this film. I’ve already written a poem about it, ordered a poster for my room and planned various tattoos, but none of these actions can sum up how much this film has affected me. I know I have a flair for the overdramatic, but I don’t feel it’s too much to say that both times I’ve seen this film, a part of me died. I came away both times with this unshifting emptiness inside me, as if I’ve been hollowed out. Between Shannon Murphy’s sensitive directing, Rita Kalnejais’ heartbreaking writing and all of the actors’ raw and honest acting, I’ve found a film that has broken way in the best way possible. I may never emotionally recover from seeing it, but that doesn’t make me want to never see it again. In fact, I’m on my local cinema’s website looking to go for a third time as I write this.

Always, Drew xxx

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