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Babies (2010)

Starring:

Bayar

Bayar

Hattie

Hattie

Mari

Mari

Ponijao

Ponijao

Directed by:

Thomas Balmes

Rating: 8/10

US Certificate: PG

When I told a friend of mine that I wanted to see the movie Babies, he asked me if it was a horror movie. No, I assured him—it’s just a movie about babies. Saying it out loud, it DID seem strange—a 79-minute long documentary with no narration, no big cause to bring to light, no celebrity backing. Just a movie about babies. Somehow, though, with no action, romance, gore, or drama, Babies is still a fascinating look at some really cute babies.

Four really cute babies, to be exact—Mari from Tokyo, Japan; Ponijao, from Opuwo, Namibia; Hattie from San Francisco in the United States; and Bayarjargal (they call him Bayar), from Mongolia. The whole thing, the brainchild of French director Thomas Balmes, is exactly what the title suggests—a look at the first year of life of babies around the world. From the ultra-techie world of Tokyo to the opposite end of the spectrum in Namibia, what we learn is that while things might look exotic from the outside, at our core, we all start out the same.

With no narration and no “storyline,” per se, Babies is a bit more like watching a series of snapshots or home videos of babies doing the things they do in that first year—crawl, sleep, walk, eat, bathe with goats, hang out with roosters, endure yoga classes—than an actual documentary. These families were chosen prior to any of the babies being born, so any stories that developed would be mostly organic, and while Balmes has obviously chosen to document certain aspects of each child’s life in order to create a mood of contrast, the lack of narration and storyline actually enables the audience to experience the universality of baby-dom, because no matter where you may have been born, you still had to learn to crawl. Also, its funny—for some people, that horror movie comment might not be far from the truth, because I’m pretty sure there are some American moms who sat terrified at some of the scenes in Namibia and Mongolia, screaming at the screen, “Watch your baby!” when, of course, the babies are just fine. Some may fault Balmes and his babies for NOT presenting any real conflict or statement, but sometimes it’s enough to just present footage and let the story form on its own. Best scene? Well, my favorite was little Mari of Tokyo having the cinematic meltdown of the year when she couldn’t figure out a puzzle, proving that temper tantrums are universal. That’s real drama, my friends.

It's Got: Very cute babies, Great tantrum footage, A baby who doesn’t seem fond of yoga

It Needs: A little more dad time, A wider release

Alternatives:

March of the Penguins, Life, Planet Earth

Summary

This movie proves that all around the world, whether in a high rise in Tokyo or a hut in Namibia, adorable babies are all pretty much doing the same things, and it’s utterly fascinating.

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