Movie #14 2021: Babyteeth (2019)

2019 and 2020 really were great for good-looking indie films, weren’t they? Well, here’s another addition to that list.

Directed by Shannon Murphy, who has directed a series of short films and some episodes of television before this, Babyteeth stars Eliza Scanlen and a few other familiar faces. It tells the story of a terminally ill teenager (played by Scanlen), who takes her parents by surprise when one day she brings home a drug-dealer who she’s begun to date. Needless to say, they’re initially pretty unhappy with that, and they begin to deteriorate mentally just as quickly as she is physically.

Somehow despite the cast list, I didn’t clock that this movie was Australian. And I love that about it. No-nonsense, unafraid, straight to the point. Brilliant. 

Both the direction and the writing are absolutely great here. The script is particularly realistic, allowing the actors to bounce off one another with ease and pace, whilst giving each scene a title helps this all to play out in chapters, almost like a novel. Really nicely done and undoubtedly unique, there’s clear reason to look forward to whatever Rita Kalnejais writes next, even if some of the story itself isn’t completely exciting.

A serious question now: why does Eliza Scanlen keep breaking the fourth wall in this?! To be honest, I quite liked it… but I have no idea why they chose to do it. Perhaps I’m too bone-headed to figure it out, but one must assume there’s some sort of reason. She continues to impress though regardless of my questioning, bringing much more sparkle to Babyteeth than she was allowed to in Little Women. However, the performance from Ben Mendelsohn is the real showstopper, but I’ll let you witness that for yourself instead of trying to describe it. Much more effective to do it that way.

A dynamic, technical, and aesthetically pleasant film indeed. While the subject matter isn’t particularly my cup of tea, Babyteeth is very well made and shows bundles of promise from Shannon Murphy.

Decent stuff, it just needed tightening in a couple of places to cut down the unnecessarily long sequences. Still a definite recommendation – just make sure you mentally prepare for it being two hours long beforehand.

Babyteeth is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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