Coming of age stories are universal. The themes found in them are relatable by everyone. A common situation found in these films is falling in love for the first time. More often than not it is with the wrong person. Babyteeth follows Milla (Eliza Scanlen) as she tries to navigate her increasingly complicated life. She is very ill, and has fallen in love with a parent’s worst nightmare. So what makes it different from other films of the genre?
The performances are top notch. The movie is an emotional one. Scanlen is up to the task, showing an impressive range. Milla goes through the variety of emotions expected from a teenager. She is very natural in the role. (Scanlen has proven to be a great actor with roles in Sharp Objects and Little Women. It will be nice to see her play a healthy person in the future.)
The supporting cast also add to Babyteeth. Ben Mendelsohn and Eddie Davis do a fantastic job as Milla’s parents. Meanwhile, Toby Wallace does an excellent job of being a junkie a person can fall in love with. The story fumbles a little when it introduces quirky side characters. They are fun additions to the movie, but ultimately add very little. While they do not negatively impact Babyteeth, their removal would have made for a tighter narrative.
The cinematography is beautiful. From the smart use of lighting to the brightly colored title cards, Babyteeth constantly catches the audience’s attention. Director Shannon Murphy also does a great job of framing her cast. Many times emotion is conveyed through complete silence. Murphy does a magnificent job in her directorial debut.
Writer Rita Kalnejais makes sure to hit all the points needed in a strong coming of age story. Despite its many dark themes, Babyteeth is filled with positivity. To call it a feel good story would not be accurate, but there is a feeling of hopefulness. Coming of age stories are all about moving forward and the script from Kalnejais does a great job of getting that feeling across.
Babyteeth may seem like just another coming of age story. It does tackle many of the tropes that are associated with the genre. The basic structure of the plot will also be familiar to fans of these types of movies. The film is much more, however. Strong performances and unique situations separate Babyteeth from similar offerings.