Image: Eliza Scanlen in Babyteeth [Source: IMDB]
What already is a family dealing with dysfunction and heartache is sent into further disarray when terminally ill teenager Milla falls in love with a much older, drug dealer named Moses. Himself a troubled character leaves everyone lost as to where their happiness lies.
It’s been sometime since I was at the cinema, and while this was not my first trip back. I instead opted to revisit a classic for that joyous occasion. This was my first film off the beaten track, sometime I had completely missed in every kind of way. But I found myself intrigued and I must admit my expectations painting a very different kind of picture for this movie. Where my head was going was your typical girl meets boy, good times follow while the parents try to dissuade, things go wrong but in the end they all come together.
Instead what you find is a methodical, almost unbearingly so, approach to the slow painful loss and longing of “normality” in life when someone is approaching certain death. On one hand I’m willing to admit that film does a fantastic job of lending the viewer the ear of the main character Milla, as she tackles her everyday life. It doesn’t force sympathy down our throats with long gruelling displays of chemotherapy or hair loss. Instead it focuses on Milla’s focus…a boy. Moses is as troubled as she, in a world where the stars align for them to be together, each of them find themselves adrift, not knowing if they are coming or going. At times this creates some wonderful scenes of tension, drama and sympathy for the pair of them.
Sadly however. The films approach to this drama is beyond subtle. It’s slow, it’s silent, it’s almost non existent. The parents troublesome relationship is put on display in small tasteful glimpses at first but quickly just depends to jarring dramatic flair with little to no dramatic repercussion, almost as if its swept under the rug for the audience to ponder. One may argue that this is sort of like life, things just sort of happen. I’d argue against the idea here, in almost a Chekov’s gun approach to cinematic storytelling, if an action is shown in a focused scene – it must have consequence. Instead as an audience viewer its as though you’re constantly wondering when the firework you’ve seen burning away getting closer and closer to exploding will finally pop.
Thankfully what does keep you at least watching is that the performances are great, Mendelsohn is in great form as a dad estranged and isolated in his family but wants desperately to connect to something. The actress who plays Milla also makes the rather bland script she is given some much needed umph and the rest of the cast mostly just blend in.
Overall it’s hard to say I didn’t like this film as there is something touching about it. A story of muddled love and isolation, its not quite deep or impactful but there is something that puts a sorrowed smile across the face when thinking about the story that was told. Perhaps with some more of the drama allowed to flourish and some much needed script tension the film would be more appealing adding character and interest to ironically an isolated viewing experience. The audience feeling the same detachment from the people in this story.