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Directed by award-winning director Shannon Murphy, Babyteeth (2019) centres around the coming of age of terminally ill teenager Milla Finlay (Eliza Scanlen), her tumultuous relationship with her parents and unsuspectingly, her unorthodox love tale with small-time drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace).
The 2019 film opens with familiar, modern Australian scenery – with everything from middle-class suburbia right down to flocks of ibises nailed to a tee. Chaos ensues from the get-go, with Milla fatedly meeting Moses on her commute to school. While the encounter is fleeting, they are drawn to each other at first glance. Thereon, Milla throws caution to the wind as she pursues her growing obsession with him.
While the sharp transitions of the film undercut the flow of the narrative, they add to Babyteeth’s impact as a classic tragicomedy. In a show of spontaneity, teen angst and rebellion, Milla continues to develop a close bond with Moses, to her parents’ initial dismay. Though, her callous actions come to reveal the real dysfunctionalities of those around her, and more importantly, how far each person is willing to go for love. We become acquainted with many witting and charming characters – from Milla’s sensitive music teacher and doting, drug-dependent mother to her disarmingly honest, pregnant neighbour – who all have their flaws yet grow alongside Milla.
In recognising Moses’ uplifting nature, traditional parenting goes out of the window as many inner walls come down. Above all, Moses’ eventual acceptance into the Finlay family allows him to become a pillar of hope as well as a guiding light in Milla’s darkest hours. Through a crazy series of events, the isolation and strife experienced by all turn into child-like happiness as the central characters of the film unite over their relentless support for her.
As disorderly as it is touching, Babyteeth offers an honest look into unconditional love, co-dependent relationships and what family really means. By embracing the chaos and learning to let go, Milla and her loved ones learn to appreciate what really matters.
As the film reminds us: when life is too short and entropy is all that is guaranteed, the only thing left to do is live like you have nothing to lose.