Directed by Sebastián Silva
Starring Sebastián Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Kristen Wiig, Reg E. Cathey, Alia Shawkat, Mark Margolis
Film review by Colin Lomas
After attempting to use gay friend Freddy (Silva) as the sperm donor in her insemination, Polly (Wiig) finds out Freddy is infertile and the sperm-buck passes firmly into the hands of his uncertain partner Mo (Adebimpe). Nasty Baby presents the three friend’s fluctuating hopes and doubts about the situation while following Freddy’s attempts to secure precious exhibition space for his rather bizarre adults-as-babies art installation. Their daily lives are increasingly interrupted by a local mentally challenged resident known as the Bishop (Cathey) who blows leaves outside their house in the early hours and pesters people as they walk along the street.
It is never fully clear who is planning on raising the child; whether Freddy and Mo are going to become joint dads, Polly a single mum or a shared three-way parental relationship. Because of this, all three characters can present their mutable moments of uncertainty and desperation without having the emotionally contented surrogate role. It is also never clear to what end the story is leading and although the role of The Bishop is seemingly setting matters up for a collision, until the plot has its big moment the narrative teases things along impressively. Nasty Baby initially feels like a slight twist on a well-written rom-com, but the ever present menace of The Bishop injects a level of unknown jeopardy. This extra angle gives the movie a level of tense uncertainty, the impression that at any moment the primary storyline could be smashed apart by events yet unknown. When Silva does eventually show his hand it is unexpected and strikingly intense.
Silva juggles the roles of main character and director well. Early on, Mo chastises Freddy about his temper problems, which initially seems an overreaction to the event in question, but this slow-burning wrath soon becomes more evident as the film progresses and Freddy’s character becomes more transparent. Silva deliberately and gently works this progression well into his performance. Wiig is excellent as she plays the body-clock aware Polly becoming ever more desperate when her pregnancy chances become less clear. Supporting roles are well cast too; Margolis plays the local cool elder statesman Richard well and Shawkat seamlessly slips into the role of Freddy’s cool young art assistant Wendy.
It’s refreshing to experience a film whose main characters are gay without assertively sewing its gayness on its sleeve. This is a story of individual bonds and problems which just happens to include a gay couple, and Nasty Baby really excels because of this subtle shift in premise.
Silva has created a great little film about relationships, hopes and doubts with an excellent unexpected sucker-punch of a plot revelation to tie things up nicely.