What is not to like about babies? Don’t we all, at one point or another, long for a whiff? A warm, curled mass of softness tucked under our chin? A drool-y, tooth-filled grin bestowed upon us from wobbly legs with a droopy diaper butt? Even if this moment of bliss is directly followed by handing it gratefully back to the nearby mom while silently giving thanks for clean floors and a full night’s sleep, babies are still a source of joy.
The movie Babies is a documentary directed by Thomas Belmes that follows the lives of four children from birth to approximately one year old. The children come from all over the world: Africa, Mongolia, Japan and the United States. There are many reasons why this cool movie should not be missed.
There is little dialogue. The story is told through the lifestyle, expressions and actions of the children. This makes for a riveting foray into the world of a child as it learns and explores. How a child examines a rock or her look of concentration as she studies those around her (or him) speaks volumes.
It’s a fascinating peek into other cultures. It’s amazing how people can be so wildly different, but so astonishingly the same. The little boy from Africa runs around naked all day long next to his hut made of sticks and mud. He leads a pretty simplistic life. The American girl is in her toy- and book-filled playroom decked out in her organic cotton dress and Stride Rite shoes. Yet as each is shown interacting with the family pet, they are in the same world of wonder and exploration.
The juxtapositions are just priceless. Take, for instance, bathing. In Africa, the mother licks her son’s eyes and spits. In Mongolia, breast milk is squirted on the baby’s face to wipe away dirt, and later, a goat joins the party. In Tokyo, like America, the babies splash like mad in their modernized bathrooms complete with suds and toys. Again, amazingly different approaches. Yet when they show the children interacting with their peers, they all might as well be in the same backyard. When your sibling smacks you upside the head with a rock, it is not funny anywhere.
Babies is a sweet and funny movie. Each child goes on similar journeys of growth and development. They reach milestones together, and you cheer for them all. Their smiles are to die for, the temper tantrums are hilarious, their play is uninhibited, and their happiness is palpable. And all of this happens in incredibly divergent surroundings. The movie reaffirms that though we may all look different, ultimately, we are the same.