Ok, let’s go ahead and get it out of the way: you’re probably ALREADY sick of hearing about the Babies movie (remember when Ariel posted the trailer in December?). Some of you might have seen the subject of this and already clicked out, because those four babies are all over the media. I get it. I understand. But, you guuuuys. THEY’RE SO INCREDIBLY CUTE.
Here’s the premise, for anyone who hasn’t already heard about it:
Director Thomas Balmes spent four to five years living with four different families. The families live in Namibia, Japan, Mongolia, and the United States, and he basically follows the first twelve to eighteen months of each child’s life. There are two boys (Ponijao and Bayar) and two girls (Mari and Hattie).
As you can expect, with locations as diverse as these, there are some differences in what the children do and do not experience. Also, as a warning–unless you live in the most awesome, kickass city on Earth, you’re probably going to have at least one person who mutters “gross” at one point or another. My suggestion? Try to ignore it and just enjoy the film. For example, I was rankled when someone audibly gasped (in a not-so-nice way) when a mother was shown breastfeeding, but instead of letting it sour my experience, I just rolled with the beauty.
I’m trying to tiptoe around the film itself because I really don’t want to take away from anything specific in case you guys haven’t seen it yet. However, let me say this: get ready for some hella gorgeous majesty, and by this, I mean the majesty of infancy. If your life has been touched by any child, you’re going to love this film. I don’t think the degree to which you will love this film will change if you have given birth or adopted, baby-sat or nannied, step-parented or biologically-parented, and so on and so forth–if you have loved a child, if you even just think that maybe, some day, you MIGHT love a child, you will love this movie. You know, even if you think you’re never, ever going to love a child, you’ll still smile. And maybe go “aww.” To yourself.
Like many awesome documentaries, Babies is mostly dialogue free–every so often there are snippets of conversation, but there are no subtitles, and adult faces, if even shown, are usually cut off below the eyes. Even better, the camera is mostly at baby level, further emphasizing who the subjects are, and approaching the world from the same way that they see it.
One of my absolute favorite aspects of the film is that the households are not all stock nuclear families, and the ones that are aren’t exactly cookie-cutter representations of the stereotypes of their countries. For example, the American family is made up of a mom, a dad, and a daughter. However, they practice yoga, get in hot tubs naked (complete with a naked baby!), and sing songs to the Earth at baby playtime. The make-up of the family in Namibia is so ambiguous that it’s difficult to discern whose child is whose at first, but then you begin to (or at least, I did) realize that what’s important is how the children are loved, not necessarily by whom.
Something else that’s nice? In Namibia, as in Alabama (that’s where I’m at), it’s perfectly fine for your child to teeth on anything–be it a rock, a stick, or the dog.
It’s easy to get caught up in the romanticizing of various people and families in the film, and, for me at least, to be drawn to the Mongolian and Namibian families because what they are, on the surface, is different from what I see often in families or even in my own. However, the truly sublime backbone of the narrative, what all of the families are living, is that the key to nurturing a life is to love that life as much as possible.