Jun 20, 2020

An ill teen falls in love: There's much more than that and even humor.


Grade: B+

Director: Shannon Murphy (On the Ropes)

Screenplay: Rita Kalnejais (Surge)

Cast: Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One), Eliza Scanlen

Runtime: 1h 58m

By: John DeSando

“This is the worst parenting.” Anna (Essie Davis)

A young woman seriously ill has had its wispy films like The Fault in Our Stars (2014), so Babyteeth is not original by any means, except that it is. However, director Shannon Murphy has infused it with a casual and light attitude that allows the growing love between teen Milla (Eliza Scanlen) and charismatic 23-year-old Moses (Toby Wallace) to dominate rather than the illness.

A forced eccentricity pervades with the teens and her parents Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) and Anna. Milla dances and loves with Moses, who when not dealing drugs can provide wispy sentimentality and demanding reality to nurture the ill Milla. Watch the play of color and light and spot-on lyrical music to convince the skeptical dad how much better Moses is than prescription drugs. Although dad is a psychiatrist, the family is dysfunctional enough to amuse the audience and blunt the force of Milla ‘s decline.

Because both mom and dad actors are Australian icons, Shannon can underplay them to give full force to Milla and change agent Moses, whom parents let into their lives as they witness how happy he makes Milla.

Actually, mom and dad may be more interesting to an audience that prefers adults with baggage who are still passionate about each other and more or less work together to give Milla a comfortable life they hope without the dangers the older boy promises. Regardless, this is a teen coming of age story like no other—joy abounds amid family chaos and illness. Milla is a teen to remember when joie de vivre is needed.

On Amazon Prime.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at