Berlinale: Nasty Baby

Directed by Sebastián Silva
Starring Sebastián Silva, Kristen Wiig, Tunde Adebimpe and Alia Shawkat

by Joanna Orland

You should know better than to expect a straightforward story when director Sebastián Silva is at the helm.  The director of Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and Magic Magic has created Nasty Baby, which on the surface is the story of a gay couple trying to have a baby with their closest female friend.  At its core, the film is about human nature, primal urges and morality.  There is charm in the authenticity and vulgarity of its characters, who are complex human beings rather than two dimensional bohemian types, which they would perhaps be viewed as from an outside perspective.

Freddy (Silva) is an artist who is obsessed with having a baby, so much so that he has made ‘baby’ the focus of his latest art installation.  When his best friend Polly (Wiig) tells him that his sperm count is low, she then convinces him to get his partner Mo (Adebimpe) be the father of the baby they are all trying to have together.  At first Mo is hesitant, but Freddy and Polly are persistent in their effort to convince him.

Freddy is not merely obsessed with the idea of having a baby, but he is also dealing with anger issues.  He’s not a violent man, but he experiences moments of rage triggered by daily annoyances, usually caused by their crazy neighbour who refers to himself as the ‘Bishop’.  As Bishop wakes Freddy and Mo early one morning by his noisy leaf-blowing activities, Mo tells Freddy to use this as an opportunity – an opportunity to calm down.  As he deal with these frustrations of his art installation proving more difficult than first thought, his attempt at impregnating Polly coming to a sudden halt, and his escalating feud with the Bishop, something has got to give.  This is truly the story of dealing with the pressures of life.

As the film begins in one realm and ends in another, it’s quite hard to digest Nasty Baby, and if I’m honest, I’d rather sit on this review a bit longer before assessing my true thoughts and feelings on it.  With deadlines being as unforgiving as they are, that’s not a luxury I have at this time.  Initial reactions are that it is a strong character and social study, sometimes straying into the absurd, but all grounded in the reality it creates for itself.  The raw freedom this film uses to convey the frustration of its characters, who are confined by the social norms that society boxes them into, is visceral and horrific to watch, but will leave the audience thinking and questioning right from wrong, social constructs, and the system as a whole.  It is definitely not a straightforward story by any means, and thank goodness!



Our interview with director Sebastián Silva.


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