The film might be called Babyteeth, but this fresh and fearless, humorous yet heart-breaking piece of cinema feels as though it has been crafted by an old hand.
However, this is actually the feature-length debut for Australian director Shannon Murphy and it’s hard to find a flaw in this warm-hearted and bittersweet comedy.
When seriously ill teenager Milla Finlay (Eliza Scanlen) falls madly in love with a small-time drug dealer, Moses (Toby Wallace), it’s her parents’ (Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis) worst nightmare. As Milla’s first brush with love brings her a new lust for life, things get messy and traditional morals go out the window.
Milla soon shows everyone around her, however, how to live like you have nothing to lose.
From a soundtrack that seamlessly combines the classical music of Mozart with interesting modern artists like The Tuneyards to unique choices in editing, this film doesn’t so much break the rules, as much as it appears to not realise that rules even exist. If you look closely, you’ll even notice a few Fleabag style breakings of the fourth wall by the stunning Scanlen.
The story is told in such a way that it reminds me of how Bleeding Gums Murphy described Jazz to Lisa in an early episode of The Simpsons – how the magic is in the notes not being played. In Babyteeth, the scenes that are not shown add so much to what is on display. It’s as though Murphy has made the deliberate decision not to talk down to the audience, and it’s incredibly effective.
You’ll laugh during this film, the subtle comedic timing of all the actors is top-notch. But be warned, you will cry, and I mean snotty, gulping crying that only gets worse the more you try to hide it in a public movie theatre.
It’s a testament to Murphy’s skill, and that of the actors she worked with, that the audience is so touched by both ends of the spectrum of human emotion.
In the end, what might have been a disaster for the Finlay family leads to letting go and finding grace in the glorious chaos of life. And that’s how I’d describe this film: effortlessly graceful. It has kept swimming in my mind long after viewing.
Earning top stars from all the major publications, Babyteeth was best described by Rolling Stone magazine simply as “An extraordinary film.”
Babyteeth is in cinemas now.
OUR RATING: 10/10