A terminally ill teenager (Eliza Scanlen) falls in love with a 22-year-old part-time drug dealer and general neer-do-well (Toby Wallace), much to the horror of her preachy parents. 

There’s been no shortage lately of films in the ever-popular teen cancer-girl subgenre. Movies like The Fault In Our Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and others have been largely well made, beautifully acted and emotionally accomplished weepies.  

So perhaps director Shannon Murphy, an emerging Australian maverick, and screenwriter Rita Kalnejais, working from her own 2012 stage play, thought it was time to tweak the recipe a bit and add a touch of black comedy and a scoop of irony.  That they nonetheless manage at the same time to pull off a well made, beautifully acted and emotionally accomplished weepie is a pretty neat trick.

The irony stems from her parents’ hypocrisy. He’s a psychoanalyst and self-prescribing drug user, and she’s a gleeful, similarly un-self-aware pill popper. The film would probably not work as well as it does without Aussie veterans Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis hilariously nailing these roles.

On the whole, this frequently recycled material seems freshly discovered, the film keeps you just a bit off balance, and it earns its eventual tears. (118 min)

Japan release date of Babyteeth: February 19, 2021


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