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Film Review: Babyteeth (2020)

Disclaimer: This review is only possible because I went to the cinema to see the film. I am in a position where my country has a low rate of transmission of COVID-19 and I, alongside my household, are not in the high-risk category. I made a personal choice to attend the cinema, and I am pleased with how my cinema chain has handled social distancing and spot checks throughout the entire film.

I am in a position to go to a cinema, but that does not mean everyone else is. If you do not feel safe to go to the cinema, then don’t. No film is worth your health, especially if you are in an area or country with a high rate of transmission. If you or a household member is of high-risk from the virus, I would not recommend risking the trip. If you feel that your cinema is not taking the right procedures in social distancing or wearing masks, I would recommend not giving them your support and staying away. Just because films are being released and cinemas are starting to re-open does not mean the virus has gone away.

If you choose to go to the cinema this weekend or any time soon, enjoy yourself! It’s great that the film industry is finally able to make back some money and give us some much-needed entertainment. I also encourage you, however, to be respectful of those around you. The staff at these chains are potentially risking their lives daily to provide you with entertainment, so be respectful to them. Make sure to also respect other film fans who will be turning up, wearing your mask, and sticking to the social distancing guidelines in your local area. 

Stay safe and put your health before any film, even if it means you are not ready to go to the cinema yet.

Babyteeth (2020) is an Australian coming-of-age story that deals with the complications of relationships, from dating to family. Directed by Shannon Murphy, this film stars Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis. When Milla (Scanlen), a terminally ill teenager, falls in love with Moses (Wallace), a drug dealer, her parents disapprove of it yet have a plan to keep her happy through this period.

Babyteeth' Review: Love Means Never Having, Well, You Know - The New York  Times
I will start with the positives here and say that the performances are phenomenal, particularly from lead Eliza Scanlen. Whilst I hope her next role doesn’t involve her playing a character who becomes terminally ill, she does the part just as good here as she did with Beth in Little Women. She has to carry this movie almost single-handedly, and she manages that. If there is a reason that so many people are invested in this story and movie, it is because of her performance and what her character goes through.
I also want to highlight the cinematography here, as the visuals and colour palette are so well realised. Almost like a fantasy, the blues are so vivid and bright and each scene should just be a painting. Whether it is the gritty reality of being on the rough streets or lounging by the pool on a gorgeous summer day, the film captures it on screen incredibly well and helps bring the world to life.
Whilst many critics and audience members may have fallen in love with this film, I unfortunately have to say that I struggled overall with this one. I had an issue with the subject matter by description alone, a teenager and an adult drug dealer dating with the acceptance of the parents, but the issue becomes a lot more problematic with further explanation of the plot. This film tries to get you to care about the relationship between Milla and Moses, and yet I just felt creeped out and disgusted by every single character (aside from Milla) throughout the film.
In 'Babyteeth,' she's 16 and has cancer, he's 23 with a drug habit, and she  thinks now it's time to meet her parents? - The Boston Globe
All of the characters here suffer from bad writing, and I do not mean just written to make bad decisions or be flawed. Some of their actions made no sense and their reasoning was also flawed just to make the plot move forward. I do not fully understand the purpose of the side characters, as they all felt like they belonged in separate movies. When all of the characters came together for a party, it felt disconnected because it seemed like none of the guests should have even been there. 
It was not just the bad writing that made me feel disconnected from the story, but the pacing and editing as well. This film tries to take an artistic approach to the film by having subtitles between sections of the film. This would have worked well if they actually had some consistency and theme to them. Instead, some subtitles have the purpose of adding extra information to the scene and some are there just to have subtitles. It broke up the film in a way that I did not like, and there were some sections that just made the film stop and make the scenes feel disconnected.
I am not a fan of the messages that this film sends out. I would have perhaps been more accepting of the film if I felt like the relationship had some development to it or if there was something to happen that would bring justice. I do not think a single film has made me more angry at the handling of a subject matter. It is not just the handling of the relationship between Milla and Moses, but also how both parents handled the situation as well. This is not just one of those cute teen cancer stories that have been gaining popularity since The Fault In Our Stars, this goes way beyond that and the ending was unforgivable to me with how it was handled.
Babyteeth review: Eliza Scanlen bridges teen romance and terminal illness |  Sight & Sound | BFI
This is easily my biggest disappointment of the year so far. With how much love this film got online, I was hoping this would be good and that it would live up to the hype. Instead, I had so many issues with the writing, the story, the editing, and the messages it was sending out that I couldn’t escape and let myself go with the journey. Whilst others may have an emotional connection to the lead character and the coming-of-age aspect, I was just grossed out by every choice made by each character and how romanticised it made each aspect feel like. I’m sorry, but I am sticking with being in the minority on this one and not recommending it to anyone.

Have you had a chance to check out Babyteeth yet? Did you see the story from another viewpoint and enjoy it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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