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Baby – A Poem short film review

★★★★

Directed by: #EleannaSantorinaiou

 
Still from Baby – A Poem
Still from Baby – A Poem

In his poem ‘Born Yesterday’, Philip Larkin puts forward his wish that a newborn should grow up to be ‘ordinary’ and ‘dull’. This, he thinks, may give her the greatest chance at happiness. Eleanna Santorinaiou’s spoken-word short film Baby – A Poem, in contrast, presents a speaker with a much more hopeful, idealistic wish for a baby’s future, while maintaining grounded, realistic expectations. Here, the narrator is certain that no matter what – and despite the challenges they will surely face – in the end, they will make a difference.


Togo Igawa narrates the piece. His delivery is powerful and optimistic, but the words of the poem belie the speaker’s tone. He hopes for the best, of course, but he is already prepared for the worst, acknowledging the difficulties the baby will inevitably face, that they will make enemies as well as friends, and at times may have to “run until […] you feel free or safe.” These practically ominous moments make the film’s overall optimism far more affecting, recognising that the baby will face challenges, and may even grow up to be ‘exploited’, but refusing to be consumed with dread. Currently, the baby is untouched and innocent, and the speaker has a sense of wonder that no matter what comes next – whatever choices or discoveries are made – this is a new beginning.


Throughout, we see fleeting images of the newborn’s tiny feet and hands, as well as family gatherings, idyllic countryside and industrial cityscapes, this latter captured in London by director of photography Yury Sharov. There are moments of aching beauty and joy shoulder to shoulder with shots of a waterlogged car, cranes and building sites. It creates a feeling of universality. The message of Santorinaiou’s poem applies to all newborns, regardless of where their lives begin. Additionally, Fanis Zachopoulos’ score at times fights for dominance over diagetic sounds of birdsong, traffic passing, wind and laughter, paradoxically grounding the film while also producing the atmosphere of a memory or a dream, tender home movie footage juxtaposed with staged scenes and poetic foreshadowing.


Baby – A Poem feels ultimately optimistic, and sometimes idealistic to its detriment. Santorinaiou’s words seem intensely personal, and seen as one adult’s message to one baby, the idealism can be forgiven. However, it falters as a universal piece. It is difficult to marry the tone with the more ominous moments, to take the clearly stated message (“You will matter”) and apply it to the darker elements. Yes, the baby will matter, but the film’s dismissal of the baby’s possible struggles and sadness to come with an almost flippant “You will thrive” is disingenuous. Still, in the end, the film clearly comes from a place of love and feels very honest.

 

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