20th January 1800 2.44pm at Vue Islington
12th October 2015 3.30pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
Gayby Baby is a documentary with a lot of promise, daring to take on a very engaging topic with a demonstrable affinity for the cinematic medium. The film portrays critical moments in the lives of four Australian children, all of whom have same-sex parents, exploring the impact of this parentage on their upbringing. Unfortunately, while the film may tackle compelling subject matter, it really brings little that’s new or original to its own discussion.
Much of the film only touches on the implications of gay marriage tangentially: one child develops a love of wrestling, and his parents have to teach him not to play too rough. Another wants to get into music school and be a singer, so her parents help her to realise those ambitions. These are all things that good parents do, regardless of sexual orientation, and so the film’s thesis, while morally sound, doesn’t render much in the way of intriguing insights or uncharted territory. That relationship has been portrayed countless times before and in much greater depth.
Where the film does dwell on the ways in which life differs for children with same-sex parents, things become more interesting. One of the children writes a letter to the Australian prime minister on the subject of having two mums, and presents it as the media looks on. That one story, not burdened by the same mundane elements which weigh upon the others, holds enough interest to keep the audience watching, even when the film at large can seem aimless or, at worst, patronising.
But if Gayby Baby falls short in content, it certainly doesn’t lack style. Though there’s still an abundance of documentary-standard handheld camerawork throughout the film, it never feels amateur or rough around the edges. Indeed, every shot is presented with surprising clarity and precision, from intimate close-ups to vibrant panoramas. The inevitable talking heads never feel contrived or premeditated; filmed on site, in the midst of the action, they convey a strong sense of honesty, especially on the part of the children. The opening titles, juxtaposing family photographs, audio from interviews and the graceful reveal of text which is beautiful in its simplicity, are incredibly stylish, and it’s clear that the director has an affinity for presentation that goes beyond pointing and shooting. It’s just a shame to see those talents wasted on stories where nothing really happens.
Gayby Baby does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Gayby Baby here: