Babyteeth

Sixteen-year-old Milla is dying from cancer. On her way to school one day she has a sliding doors moment when she is literally bowled over by Moses (Toby Wallace), off his head on drugs, tattooed, spotty, dressed in his uniform of surf shorts. Attracted maybe by his kindness as he rips off his shirt to staunch her bleeding, or  his total antithesis to her middle-class life with her psychotherapist dad (Ben Mendelsohn) and stay-at-home mum (Essie Davies), she falls for him big time.

Her parents are naturally horrified, understanding as they do that their home provides him with all the drugs he needs to make a living and feed his own habit. But they also see that he gives Milla cause to live  for the last few months she has left, and that the challenge of redeeming Moses from his habit is life-affirming.

This debut feature film from Australian Shannon Murphy deals with the death of a teen in a straightforward and unsentimental manner; there is laughter and there are of course tears. Although Ben Mendelsohn is always worth watching, Eliza Scanlon steals the show with her portrayal of a girl facing death – the anger, the despair, the pain and the loss of her future – with her luminous beauty, perfectly-formed bald head and its array of colourful wigs. She and Wallace have an extraordinary rapport which pulls at the heart strings. As a mother who has lost a daughter, the movie reminded me how it is possible to celebrate a life rather than sink into mawkish denial.

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