Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Do you think babies are cute? Do you find their interaction with one another and an assortment of domestic animals adorable? Then this film is for you. I could stop there and leave you wondering if I mean that sincerely or cynically, but, let's be honest, who doesn't find babies at the very least at little bit diverting? If there is a universal truth on this planet it is that, by and large, babies are really rather sweet and fascinating little animals.

Here we get to meet four of them as they go about the business of becoming toddlers at various points on the planet. Ponijao learns the ups and downs of life in the dusty landscape of Namibia, Bayarjagal spends his early months in a Mongolian yurt, while city babies Hattie and Mari spend their babyhoods in California and Japan respectively. Director Thomas Balmès has a hands-off and words-off style of direction. It's to be welcomed. We all know the sort of thing mums and dads say to babies, so subtitles would be extraneous.

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He offers no commentary for what we're watching, just lets the babies babble by. Which, all things considered, is rather pleasant. We get to observe the babies going about their businesss, grappling with the tricky notions of trying to grasp both language and objects in the world around them. In one memorably intercut scene Bayarjagal patiently tugs at a loo roll, unwinding half of it before triumphantly managing to escort it to his mouth while Mari has a bit of a paddy over her inability to thread discs on a stick. The film is full of such simple pleasures - the unending patience of a cat whose face is practically getting pulled off by a bit of exuberant petting; the sight of Ponijao balancing a cup on her head; Hattie making a bid for freedom in the midst of a particularly awful song at her mums and toddlers group. What sticks out is the babies indomitability and sense of adventure.

At 75 minutes, Balmès is at risk of giving us too much of a good thing - a shorter runtime would have been no less effective and even those who find babies beyond cute may find their attention waning by the end. Plus, this is pure observation, so those looking for deep insights into the different upbringing of children across the world may find themselves wanting more. Still, it's sweet to the last without being cloying and the sort of film that babies and toddlers themselves would probably quite enjoy watching.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2011
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Observational documentary tracks four children across the globe.
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Director: Thomas Balmès

Writer: Thomas Balmès, Alain Chabat

Starring: Bayar, Hattie, Mari, Ponijao

Year: 2010

Runtime: 75 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: France


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