Documentaries rarely do well at the box office. Sure there is the occasional Michael Moore movie or March of the Penguins, but overall they go by unnoticed and slink away into DVD collections of movie nerds like me. It's a shame because I really enjoy them and I think they have a lot to say. It's refreshing when you see real stories with real people who have something unscripted and real to say. But what happens when the subject and stars of your documentary have nothing to say because they can't talk...yet. Babies is a French documentary by director Thomas Balmes that just might be able to take flight and be another documentary box office hit if word-of-mouth happens. Don't be scared by it though, there's not subtitles because there's no dialogue. I realize that I'm doing a horrible job at selling this movie right now for a majority of moviegoers, but how about I tell you what it's about and then you'll be hooked. The film follows a year and a half of four different babies from four very different parts of the world; Mongolia, Japan, San Francisco and Namibia. After watching ten minutes of the movie, you'd pretty much have to be a soulless assh*le to not fall in love with the stars of the movie. All four grow increasingly adorable and grow before your eyes. The feeling is one that is totally unique to any movie experience I've ever had. I found myself feeling much like a parent of these kids on a small scale. I know I wasn't alone either. I could hear sniffles from tears when we all heard them say their first words. The theater laughed at their amusing frustrations over simple tasks. And we all appalled when we watched them take their triumphant first steps. It was truly a unique experience to be part of as an audience member. The film is shot beautifully and Balmes made specific choices that separate it as not just a cheap heartstring-pulling picture but as art. Namely, he chose to have no narration which makes the film's short runtime of 85 minutes seem a lot longer. However, I'm glad he decided to do that so it didn't feel like a Discovery Channel special and more like an artistic expression. He also made the decision to exclude the babies' parents as much as possible. There are moments that may upset some people though. For instance, no babies were harmed in the filming of this movie (I'm guessing), but some cultures have very different ways of parenting. Some clearly have a more hands-off approach and less sanitary lifestyle. This might turn some people off and make it unenjoyable at times. I found it interesting given the vast differences that shine through at first but then give way to undeniable maternal similarities that show that continents and cultures can divide us but deep down we're all still human. I think it's brilliant to have this movie come out on Mother's Day Weekend and would be a perfect film for moms to see together. The bonds shown between mothers and their babies are touching beyond words. It also might be a perfect date movie for serious couples because if one is on the fence about starting a family, a simple viewing of Babies will make them craze a lineage faster than you can say "pacifier."
Babies (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: A-