DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema


Parents disapprove of a seriously-ill teen's dalliance, in this palpably human Australian drama dotted with familiar faces - on VoD on Monday, December 7th; on Netflix on Thursday, December 31st

There are a number of familiar faces in the cast of the Shannon Murphy’s feature debut. Lead Eliza Scanlen was seen in last winter’s Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019), while Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn are character actors appearing in hits big and small. However, even with such illustrious credits to their name, Babyteeth is a drama that will stand out on any CV.

Scanlen plays Milla, a teenager with a serious illness who falls quite literally into the arms of Moses (Toby Wallace), a 23-year-old who is every parent’s worst nightmare. A drifter who steals and sells pills, Milla’s parents Anna and Henry (Davis and Mendelsohn) cautiously welcome him into their new home, before banning him from seeing their daughter after he is caught stealing. However, as Milla’s health issues increase, they seek out an unusual arrangement with Moses to keep their child happy.

Interspersed with written titles that read like pages in a diary (“The Shower Routine”, “Things Changed”, or simply “Fuck This”), the film begins with an examination of suburban pain. Everyone we meet is nursing some kind of desperation that they don’t talk about. Psychiatrist Henry drowns Anna in pills to counter her moods, while he is drawn like a magnet to new neighbour Toby (Emily Barclay), drawn to the simplicity of her outlook. Anna punishes herself for wasting time in the past, embodied in her refusal to play piano.

As for Milla, she simply wants to be a teenager, to do all the things her illness deprives her of. It’s not hard to understand, as she runs into dangerous situations because, well, how could it get any worse? She sees an escape in Moses, who she sees as fearless. Wallace lets us know that’s far from the case, showing us a man who initially sees her as a mark, then recoils as feelings begin to grow.

The emotional nuance in the script requires exceptional actors to deliver it, and everyone involved exceeds in their role. There’s a dark comedy to how everyone deals with the strange situation that emerges, typified when Moses is caught stealing and Milla declares that she won’t respect Henry if he calls the police. Murphy hammers home the imperfection of her characters, who try to do the right thing and find it’s not that simple.

At the midway point, the conflict eases and this awkward new family takes shape. “This is the worst possible parenting I could imagine” Anna reflects, to which Henry gives a flummoxed sigh. So much of what this film has to say is reflected in terrified looks in the mirror, or trailed off, clumsy sentences. It feels human, and beds you in before hitting you in the gut with a devastating final half hour.

Babyteeth is out in cinemas on Friday, August 14th. On VoD on Monday, December 7th. On Netflix on Thursday, December 31st.

By Victoria Luxford - 06-08-2020

London-born Victoria Luxford has been a film critic and broadcaster since 2007, writing about cinema all over the world. Beginning with regional magazines and entertainment websites, she soon built up...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

Movies and games: a dirty relationship


Tania Dickson - 25-07-2024

Sonia Dickson looks at the history of games in past 25 years, and reveals a profound and mutually beneficial connection with cinema [Read More...]

Hungry for food, family and friendship?


Paola Christensen - 25-07-2024

Ten years later: Paola Christensen discusses what Jon Favreau's Chef says about food, family and friendship in the present day [Read More...]

Our dirty questions to Ziad and Christine


Victoria Luxford - 24-07-2024

Victoria Luzford interviews Ziad H. Hamzeh and Christine Handy, the director and original writer/ exec producer of Hello Beautiful, an emotionally compelling drama about successful model, her mother, and a life-changing diagnosis [Read More...]