Directed by:Thomas Balmès
Written by: Thomas Balmès (adaptation), Alain Chabat (idea)
Starring: … BABIES!
If you go “AWWWWW” every time you see a pudgy, drooling baby in a stroller, the documentary Babies will have you doing it for a good hour and a half. As four babies from four different countries invite you to observe their first steps, their fascination and curiosity with the world around them make for a surprisingly original and deeply engaging story that depicts the universal incidents of childhood in strikingly different cultures.
As Babies travels from the dusty reds of Namibia to the stretching mountains of Mongolia, across the sprawling city of Tokyo and the neat suburbs of San Francisco, there is always something to look at in this French documentary by Thomas Balmes. With no subtitles for the parents, and of course, no way of knowing what the babies mean when they gurgle sounds, Babies forces the viewer to translate the film for themselves, relying on the pure images and gestures of these small wonders to piece together interesting insights into early childhood behaviour and how our surrounding environment shape our lives in such unique ways.
Thought-provoking in its sheer ability to let the camera roll around these intriguing little characters, Babies captures the sense of wonder babies have in everything they touch, see and grab, taking the audience back to the simple joys of having a childlike sense of curiosity in a way that doesn’t require an overbearing narrator or too much adult intervention to tell a story.
While their stumbles, their discontent and their contact with odd household animals (goats and chickens included) are the most involving and engaging aspect of Babies, the kidlets that star in this film also participate in intensely rich images of the environment they’re growing up in, bringing life and animation to eye-catching scenes that give the film a painterly and photographic snapshot-like quality.
But for those who get bored babysitting, or have an aversion to these alien-like creatures, the lack of a conventional script and dialogue will prove to be as painful as sitting in a waiting room of a maternity ward. Your reaction to the title should be enough of an indication as to whether you’ll like this film or not.