“Babies” the new documentary film by Thomas Balmes, may be the purest documentary to come down the pike this year. Released to theatres just in time for Mother’s Day it is an unadorned look, with no bells and whistles—or should that be rattles and diapers?—at a year in the life of four infants growing up in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo, respectively.
Like the title suggests this is all about babies. There is no dialogue, no narration, no point of view. It is ninety minutes of babies crying, peeing, sleeping, playing… you know, the things that infants do. Some will find the footage adorable, others, like me, will find “Babies” to be the big screen equivalent of watching home movies (only without the proud parents cooing in the background).
Not that it isn’t well shot, it is. Balmes frames every shot beautifully and there is a real intimacy in his photography. This is as up close and personal as we should ever get with stranger’s kids, but as cozy as the movie may feel I couldn’t help but imagine that this would have worked better as a short film. The endless montage of babies going about their business—sometimes literally—wears thin after the first twenty minutes.
It is interesting to see the differing parenting methods and the natural curiosity of the kids among other things, but the film misses prime opportunities to really explore the cultural and sociological differences in its subjects.
Is “Babies” cute? Yes for a short while. But without a sense of drama, conflict or insight it is little more than a Baby’s First Year photo album come to life.
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