The parallels in life come in many forms – the start of a marriage coinciding with the beginning of a new career, or graduation marking the end of one’s formative years. Some, however, are far less obvious.
In her directorial debut Babyteeth, Shannon Murphy, alongside screenwriter Rita Kalnejais, depicts some truly unexpected parallels in a young teen’s journey through cancer, love, and family ties. It is not your typical cancer dramedy. In fact, viewers never really see the process of a diagnosis, chemotherapy, X-rays or the like. Without reading the synopsis, it would take up to nearly a fifth of the way through the movie to realise that 16-year-old Milla (Eliza Scanlen) has just been diagnosed with cancer. Instead, Murphy chooses to focus on snippets of Milla’s life as she quite literally stumbles upon a junkie named Moses (Toby Wallace) who goes on to change her world.
Murphy lets viewers make their own assumptions about what happens in between the pieces of each character’s timeline. The lack of overly-concentrated detail is a refreshing break from other films of the genre with their obvious allegories and clichéd symbolism. Instead, there are subtle cues, such as the the Stranglers’ Golden Brown, played in the intro and again halfway through the movie, which appropriately coincides with the struggle each character has with a drug of some sort. Whether it be the effects of Milla’s chemotherapy or Moses’ reliance on prescriptions, these recurring parallels provoke the audience to question the real differences between personal experiences across all walks of life. Is a 23-year-old pill-addict’s high really more harmful than that of a grief-stricken mother hanging her sanity on a groggy cocktail of anti-anxiety medication? Is a medical degree the only difference between a bored, depressed psychiatrist over-prescribing medication to clients who may or may not need it, and a small-time drug dealer slinging the same pills?
Through titled scene shifts, disorienting camera angles, a diverse soundtrack and heart-wrenching moments, Babyteeth is an excellent piece of cinema that holds its own against other pictures in the genre.
Babyteeth is released in selected cinemas on 21st August 2020.
Watch the trailer for Babyteeth here: