Over the years, Australian cinema has shown time and time again that when it comes to tackling teenage drama and family tragedy it has a fairly unique spin on things. Cate Shortland’s hypnotic debut Somersault and Simon Stone’s incredibly powerful tale of lies and repercussions, The Daughter, are two great examples of this. They’re now joined by Shannon Murphy’s sharply pointed new film, Babyteeth.
Milla (Eliza Scanlen), a quiet and intelligent teenager, is finding it hard to come to terms with a serious illness. Her parents (Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis) aren’t handling it any better, desperately trying to salvage their marriage for the sake of their daughter. Her almost somnambulist trance is shattered by the arrival of Moses (Toby Wallace), a full-time hustler and sometime drug-dealer. The pair strike-up an unlikely relationship.
There have been a number of recent films which have touched on similar themes as Babyteeth but none have approached subjects such as addiction, illness and familial struggles in quite the same way. Murphy’s lore is all elbows and knees. It’s scrappy, rough around the edges and has a bit of an attitude. That’s not to say it doesn’t look amazing. Andrew Commis’ cinematography is drenched in the colours of Milla’s world, but there’s something raw and vibrant in the storytelling which is rare in modern cinema. Babyteeth lives in the grey areas of life. Neither judgemental or instructive. It simply is, and that’s what’s so wonderful.
Babyteeth is out in cinemas from 14 August.