On The Babies

Dear Millicent,

I went to an advanced screening of Babies last night, and I said in the car on the way there: “I have no idea why I want to see this so bad. I am not in a current state of babylust.  If there was a movie called Kittens, I wouldn’t probably go see that, either.  If there was a movie called Babies, Kittens: Squeeeee! I would probably throw up. But oh my gosh, am I excited about Babies.” And you know that I love cats.

I’ll blame it on a trailer with a soundtrack by Surfjan Stevens and the usual panache of Focus Features, making Babies look like a mix between Lost in Translation and Planet Earth.  It looked like a very sophisticated and elegant ogling of babies and why we do what we do.  It looked like some human shit was going to get broken down, and nobody was going to get hurt.

And it does.  There are revelatory moments of sky and baby, mother and baby, brother and baby, and yes, cat and baby.  Strollers suddenly look ridiculous, siblings look mostly really mean, and parents seem at their best when they aren’t earnestly trying to be parents.

The event I saw the film at was hosted by a local breastfeeding store, and swag bags were given out to mamas who wore their babies in slings to the show (which one mother pointed out was kinda difficult since the showtime, 7:30, is prime bedtime for most babes). This might skew my next assessment of the film: the biggest detriment of this movie might be the audience in the theater with you.  If you can’t stand hearing your office mates chuckling over CuteOverload , or pictures of grandchildren, then you should probably wait for Babies to come out on DVD.  There was so much oohing and aahing, and a new weird kind of aching groan that I think means “I know exactly what that baby is thinking” or “it’s just too much!” that I almost couldn’t stand it.  This was all exacerbated by the chorus of parents repetitively explaining what was onscreen to their own children (“Look! A baby! That’s right, ba-by. Baby.), and unsolicited explanations of baby actions to the audience as a whole (one smitten woman behind me yelled out, as a baby lifts up his loincloth “he’s looking to see if he has the same thing as his brother!”).  In short, there will be lots and lots of exclamations and pleasuretones.  If this does not bruise you, and you like humanity in general, you will enjoy seeing this in a theater.

Another audience surprise was the amount of inhales of fear and and overall communal judgment of differing child rearing practices.  The audience was clearly unhappy when a young Mongolian mother takes her newborn home on a motorcycle, or when a Namibian mother shaves her son’s head with a sharp knife. And, everybody tends to laugh when babies hurt babies.

The movie was not as exciting or insightful as I hoped.  I was expecting more wonders of culture and biology, but even in saying that, what the film does accomplish with or without dazzle is no small feat.  It quietly illustrates that first world westernized culture is different, and advantaged, but that privilege doesn’t translate to best.

I promise I did not once squee.

Yours,

CF

Image via FilmInFocus.com

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