Babyteeth tells the story of a teenage girl who is dying of cancer. It is as trope-free and unique a treatment of this story as you’ll ever find. It’s clever, immersive, and excellent. You can rent it on Prime Video.
Babyteeth throws you right into the life of Milla (Eliza Scanlen). She’s waiting for a train to school when a crazy guy named Moses (Toby Wallace) almost throws her in front of the train. She’s drawn to him. He’s a druggie, he asks her for money, he’s sketchy as the devil. But she likes him. She asks him to cut her hair. She takes him home.
Moses sizes up the situation. Milla’s mom (Essie Davis) is a concert pianist, but right now she’s pretty doped up on several drugs. Milla’s dad (Ben Mendelsohn) is a psychiatrist who can write prescriptions for anything.
Moses goes back later to steal all the drugs in the house. He’s caught and Milla comes out of her bedroom with a completely bald head. That’s when we realize cancer is what’s going on in this family.
Instead of calling the police, Milla convinces them to let Moses go. She defends him.
Milla insists on having Moses around, much to the dismay of her parents. We eventually realize it’s because he is so fearlessly alive and he takes her to experiences and places she wouldn’t have done without him.
With Moses around, life is not all school, violin lessons, and taking your medicine on time. It’s electric. It’s exciting. It’s novel.
Anna, the mom, has stopped playing the piano. Maybe it will cure Milla. Bargaining with God.
Henry, the dad, will break the law to save Milla. Bargaining with God but in a different way. He goes to see the very pregnant new neighbor Toby (Emily Barclay) and plants a big fat kiss on her when she lets him feel her baby kick.
It takes a while in the storytelling before we understand the depth of pain the parents are feeling, and before we see how difficult it is for Milla to carry on and be brave for them.
Throughout the film, Milla asks her mother to play with her. She won’t. On the night of Milla’s birthday, when nearly all the characters from the film are gathered for a party, they finally play together. It’s a beautiful moment, interrupted by Toby leaving for the hospital to have her baby.
The night of her birthday, Milla and Moses have sex. Her first time. Now she’s done everything. The “A Beautiful Morning” heading in the image above is one of many in the film, scattered like clever chapter titles in a book. This is the morning that Milla’s very last baby tooth falls out.
Even the ending of this film is different. It’s a foregone conclusion where the film is heading, but where it winds up at the end is not where you expect.
The unexpected nature of this film sets it apart. There was no exposition, just action. The characters had depth. The music fit the action.
The film was directed by Shannon Murphy and written by Rita Kalnejais. Tunefind has the soundtrack.
Watch the trailer.
Thanks to @MaureenJordan for telling me about this film. A perfect choice.
2 responses to “Babyteeth, a completely original Australian gem”
I absolutely loved this film and have watched it a few times since. After reading a lot of articles about this film, I’ve noticed that there are many different interpretations on specific scenes. For instance this article says “she’s waiting for a train to school when a crazy guy named Moses (Toby Wallace) almost throws her in front of the train.”
My interpretation every time that I’ve watched this was that him running up and almost knocking her over was his way of preventing her from committing suicide by jumping in front of the train, and it was something that was understood between the two of them but not stated–much like how I couldn’t point out the moment Moses found out she had cancer. I’m not saying that he knew she had cancer the first 5 minutes of the movie, but I can see him taking notice of her demeanor from afar and him assuming that she might jump off the platform. Witnessing someone commit suicide this way is sadly a fear for many people living in large cities where they have to take trains and/or subways, especially considering there’s an estimated 90% mortality rate when attempting suicide this way. “The number of trespassers killed by trains is at an all-time high since 2000.” https://www.foxnews.com/us/americans-die-jumping-train-tracks Since the first scene begins with Milla’s point on view (and considering my points above), I just assumed that Moses was a character in the background that we didn’t see until he ran into her. That’s just my interpretation but it’s so interesting to read what others interpreted from the film!
Thanks for sharing that insight. You’ve watched it many more times than I have. You could totally be right.