Conversely, Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth in about grief in a much more tangible manner, but sneaks up on you similarly. It begins with Milla (Eliza Scanlen, who will never not evoke goosebumps in my brain, thanks Sharp Objects) stumbling across a young man (Toby Wallace) on a Sydney train station, and adopting him/being adopted by him. She provides money, he provides a haircut. She appears to be from a wealthy family and unburdened by financial strain, Moses has a substance abuse problem and has been kicked out by his mum, presumably for stealing. Of course, beyond the surface lurks depth: Milla’s dad, a psychiatrist, is keeping her mum constantly sedated with benzodiazepines, and we later find out that Milla is suffering, and ultimately, dying from cancer, a fact that neither of her parents have had the capacity to even remotely deal with. In the face of the unbearable, they make an unconventional decision: they sort of adopt Moses (a 23-year-old man), because Milla loves him and they want her to be happy. Dad will provide the drugs to keep him off the streets, while mum, in an attempt to be present for Milla’s last months, tries to go without the drugs that are numbing her.
What sounds a like a too-high-concept approach to a cancer story, a story about impossible grief, actually works on screen, mainly because of the fantastic acting and beautiful camerawork. What could very easily be an icky and highly problematic story about a very uneven relationship works, since Wallace approaches his role with a lot of care and his character is painted to very consciously balance Milla’s needs and his own addiction. Babyteeth is deliberately quirky, but never takes it too far, grounding the story in relationships.
Babyteeth (2019), directed by Shannon Murphy, starring Eliza Scanlen, Michelle Lotters, Toby Wallace, Sora Wakaki, Renee Billing.
Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) (2020), directed by Monica Zanetti, starring Sophie Hawkshaw, Zoe Terakes, Marta Dusseldorp, Rachel House, Julia Billington.