JDIFF 2013 Review – Babygirl

Teenager Lena has disliked her mother’s choice in men, but when Victor (Flaco Navaja), the latest interloper, makes it clear that he has feelings for Lena, she decides to take action, with painful consequences.

After seeing After Lucia at Cannes last year, there is something painfully familiar about Babygirl. The differences, however, are that the characters actually talk to one another, albeit perhaps not to the right people.

Lead actress Yainis Ynoa takes on the role of Lena with surprising grace and courage. This is the young actress’s first film, but she manages to give depth and a world weariness to her young character. Lena treatds a fine line; she has to sexualise herself prematurely in order to find the room to grow into adolescence at her own pace, and Ynoa handles this balance well. as well as this, her Relationship with her friends, and her crush Xavier (Joshua Rivera) are natural and warm.

Flaco Navaja does not shy away from the sleazy aspects of Victor, and sets the udience on edge with his constant gaze on young Lena. Rosa Arrendondo has made a name for herself on TV, and as Lucy, she allows the audience to believe that this character had been hurt so many times in the past that she is willing to accept any “love” that comes her way.

Irish born writer/director Macdara Vallely has created a story that feels as though it is all too real, and shattered families often fund themselves battling internally. Valelly coaxes subtle but believable performances from her actors, but hat said, the execution of the film leaves a little to be desired. At times it feels as though Velelly is not sure how to tell her story, and leaves montages set to music to do the work for her. Once is ok, two is passable, three is painfully obvious and four just feels lazy. As well as this, resolution comes a little too easy, with little or no emotional pay off for the audience.

In all, Babygirl is an interesting examination of our culture, and the struggles that single parents – and their children – go through, but without enough exploration of the issues that set the story in motion, the film feels as though it is lacking something and, ultimately, falls a little flat. Yainis Ynoa is a true find, however, and almost manages to carry the narrative of the film.

Rating: 3/5

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