Making and/or having a child seems like such a struggle, or at least film has injected that mentality to someone like myself: someone who will eventually resort to adoption or in vitro fertilization (IVF) because of my queerness. With that said, a film like Sebastián Silva’s Nasty Baby doesn’t make the notion of creating life any less terrifying, but it’s certainly a refreshing angle to the two gays and one pregnant girl story that we’ve seen before.
Silva’s film follows the daily happenings of three individuals as they consider whether or not to have a child and then go through with the process. Freddy (Silva) and Polly (Kristen Wiig) are best friends, one an artist embarking on an art project about his soon-to-exist child, and the other a doctor determined to perform IVF on herself with her friend. Freddy’s partner, Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), works in some sort of construction and has a fondness for plants, but finds himself placed in an uncomfortable position when Freddy’s sperm count is too low and he’s next in line to be a father.
Silva’s naturalism is really the highlight here - though it must be mentioned that the film features one of the most bound-to-be divisive final acts of all time. The entire film unfolds naturally, in both the way it’s shot/edited and the way the story just seems to happen. Silva never holds a shot longer than a few seconds (and the rare moments he does are beautifully handled), with regular close-ups and a constantly moving camera. It may come across as disorienting, but some of the natural compositions he gets from the techniques are gorgeous.
Adding to the realism is the fact that Silva doesn’t write dialogue in his scripts. The guidelines he provides offers room for improvisation, which serves to enhance the characters and their interactions here. It’s the kind of dialogue that lends a familiarity to these characters that’s all too necessarily for a drama about something so personal, and it pulls you in so sneakily.
As an actor, it’s easy to wonder whether or not he’s simply playing an extension of himself, but as a filmmaker, he ensures that the audience understands how uncomfortable his characters truly are. Considering one of the subplots involves a mentally ill neighbor who harasses the couple and their friend on a regular basis, there’s just as much conflict outside the home as there is inside. Shifting emotions within the trio are the true focus though, and the film explores how each character feels in just the right way. While Mo finds himself uncomfortable with the concept of being a father, Freddy is obsessed with his inadequacy in both sperm count and art.
Polly, the proverbial third wheel, isn’t — thankfully — limited to a woman desperate for a baby that so many characters like her are. When Wiig has her legs up in the air, above her head after injecting herself mostly on-camera, and the couple is there to help, we’re hit with sweetness, a little humor, and a seemingly honest depiction of what a woman trying to get pregnant via IVF goes through. Even better is a scene where she confronts the couple about how disappointing it is to be hit with negative results after months and months of trying.
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And Nasty Baby succeeds because of its sheer willingness to contemplate how strange and pressure-inducing having a child with your best friend, or your boyfriend’s best friend. With this, Sebastián Silva has made yet another film that very likely won’t work for everybody, but is undoubtedly solidifying him as one of the most interesting indie filmmaking voices around, queer or not.
Nasty Baby will be playing at Regal South Beach on Wednesday, April 29, at 8 p.m. as part of the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Tickets cost $18. Visit mglff.com.
Follow Juan Barquin on Twitter @woahitsjuanito