In this wonderfully dark dramedy from down under, Milla (Eliza Scanlen – Little Women) is a cancer stricken 16-year-old who falls for free spirited drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace) much to the horror of her parents who only want to shield her from everything bad for whatever time she has left. But it is that relationship that keeps her going and ultimately brings them all to a place of acceptance. It’s a funny and touching and surprising film full of great performances.
Milla and Moses meet on a train platform when he nearly pushes her in front of a train. But instead they strike up a conversation and despite the fact that he’s too old for her, they click. He’s a tattooed, pierced, edgy 23-year-old. She’s a uniform-clad school girl. But she’s also looking to live a little before she dies. And she asks him to cut her hair, which he does with his estranged mother’s dog shears. And then she invites him to dinner with her parents Anna (Essie Davis – The True History of the Kelly Gang, Assassin’s Creed) and Henry (Ben Mendelsohn – Captain Marvel, Darkest Hour). Dad’s a psychiatrist who’s helping Mom cope through pharmaceuticals. And she’s high as a kite at dinner. But as Milla and Moses’s relationship develops, her parents are powerless to stop it and gradually realize that their daughter is happy and that’s all anyone, including Moses, wants.
Moses is a great character. He’s a small time dealer and you really never know if he’s using his friendship with Milla to steal some of those pharmaceuticals that Henry doles out so easily to Anna. Moses even breaks in one night and gets caught, but he’s also, beneath the scruffy druggy exterior, a decent guy who really cares about Milla. Fortunately, given their age gap the relationship isn’t all that creepy, as nothing beyond a kiss happens for most of the movie.
Babyteeth is one of those films that grows on you. It’s the debut feature for TV director Shannon Murphy and screenwriter Rita Kalnejais who adapted her own novel. Both of them will be on my list of women to follow if this is any indication. The characters are anything but predictable. The dialogue amazingly witty. And the performances all round are perfect. Even the form of the film, as told in titled chapters, felt fresh. Many scenes seem to cut away before they’re finished, but somehow it works. It also has a great soundtrack. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it.
In theaters and on demand starting June 19. Check here for times and places.