27th Aug2021

Fantasia 2021: ‘Baby, Don’t Cry’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Zita Bai, Boni Mata, Vas Provatakis, Helen Sun | Written by Zita Bai | Directed by Jesse Dvorak

If a movie’s description has ‘coming-of-age’ written in it, I will nearly always be giving it a watch. And as you’ve probably guessed, that was exactly what I read about Baby, Don’t Cry. The Fantasia website also mentioned John Hughes so I couldn’t not watch it.

But Baby, Don’t Cry is a very different kind of coming-of-age story. It’s both strange and fantastical, and gritty and harsh. Blending all kinds of emotions and styles into one twisted story. Written by its lead actor Zita Bai who plays Baby, a seventeen year old girl living on the outskirts of Seattle. The Chinese immigrant has a difficult home life and meets ‘Fox’, a twenty year old whose life is just as pained as hers. They start a relationship that we see unfold and doesn’t seem to be good for anyone.

Just describing Baby, Don’t Cry as a coming-of-age drama doesn’t really do it justice. It nearly always seems a bit frantic. Partly because what is happening but a lot because of how the film is edited and put together. Baby is a film student and we see her home movies, parts of her life mixed in with the actual movie. At times, her movies are the good things in her life, strangely, because we know her life isn’t that great, this footage almost doesn’t feel real. More like her dreams or hopes of what her life is like. Where as the actual film itself is darker and seemingly what her life is like. Her abusive relationships with her mother and her boyfriend are seen in all their unhappiness. Both Baby and her mother are struggling with the loss of the father of the family, Her mother seemingly have something akin to Alzheimers, leading to fights between the two (there is an added and very strange twist with the mother that I’ll be honest I didn’t fully understand). These aren’t the only parts of the movie that are difficult to watch. There’s several scenes involving Baby and Fox that show the complexities of both their lives individually and as a couple. Sometimes I did think to myself ‘what am I watching?!’.

I’m sure there’s plenty of people who can relate to the couples relationship. It’s fractured and often depressing but they can’t seen to live without each other even when things get really bad. But we do see happier times, we do get to see each of them smile occasionally. But you really get the feel for the highs and lows of a young relationship in this kind of life. It is never easy.

The sometimes found footage, experimental parts of Baby, Don’t Cry make things a little bit frantic. The edits and cuts are fast, maybe in a way to show how this relationship is. This is a raw and emotional coming-of-age story that writer and actress Zita Bai portrays excellently under the direction of Jess Dvorak. Vas Provatkis is also excellent in the role of Fox and the two leads bounce off of each other giving the viewer an experience like no other.

Baby, Don’t Cry is certainly not for everyone but those who connect with it will absolutely love it.

*** 3/5

Baby, Don’t Cry screened as part of this years Fantasia Film Festival.


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