Babies (2010)

Rated: PG for cultural and maternal nudity throughout.
Length: 79 minutes
Grade: C+BCD=C
Budget: Unknown, perhaps $500,000
Box Office: $11 million (7 U.S., 2 Intl., 2 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Thomas Balmes and Alain Chabat
Starring: Four mothers, four babies, and some walk-ons.

This is a documentary, much like any nature film, showing a year in the life of four babies in San Francisco, Tokyo, Namibia, and Mongolia.

Entertainment Value: C+
Okay, who doesn’t like babies, right? Our boys loved parts of it. It was very human, and part of the point is that you catch yourself thinking, “Oh, gosh, that isn’t good for a baby.” At the same time, the problem with this movie is primarily one of missed opportunity. Instead of just four babies, they should have done maybe six or eight. Also, the only babies that were really interesting were the Namibian and Mongolian ones. Tokyo and San Francisco are boringly similar and are ones I’m already familiar with. I would have loved to see babies from Mexico, Peru, Cuba, India, Iran, or Indonesia. The other missed opportunity is that even as they were showing us too many Western (Tokyo essentially counts as this) practices, they chose to show both too much and too little of the others. For one thing, the African baby (and the Mongolian, as I remember) had no diapers. So, how does this work with a baby? The one scene they did show was frustratingly brief. As a parent, I’m curious. The one wonderful choice they made was to forego a narrator and just show. I liked that.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence A, Language A
The only thing you’ll want to know is that there’s lots of female nudity in this movie, but I’ll be honest to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing lurid or erotic about it. There’s also some baby part nudity, but clearly this is normal and expected.

Significant Content: C
If there’s a message here, and I want to stress that I don’t really think there is, the message is that babies all over the world are raised in all sorts of different ways, but they all turn out okay. Even though the environment of a baby looks horrendous to you, it works for them.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
The reasons I can’t grant this a high art grade I’ve already stated above. Plus, it raised but didn’t answer questions I was interested in, such as where are the fathers in Africa and Mongolia?

Discussion Questions:
~Did any parts of this movie make you feel uncomfortable? Which ones? Do you think your discomfort is legitimate or merely cultural? If these mothers aren’t worried about their kids, is it intrusive of you to be?
~How much does this movie shift your attitudes about what is necessary for raising a healthy child?
~Were you glad this movie had no narration, or do you think it would have helped?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The obvious abundance of books in the San Francisco house compared with elsewhere.
~Flies all over the people in Africa.
~Dragging the cat by the collar.
~Shaving the baby’s head with a knife.
~Roaming dogs coming up to the baby.
~Girl frustrated with the stackable toy
~Cleaning the face with milk.
Overall Grade: C
I was really eager to see this, and you wouldn’t believe how much effort I invested to get a copy. In the end, I was mostly disappointed, especially because of how much more interesting this film could easily have been. If only they had chosen more and/or better cultures to feature.

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