In Macdara Vallely’s gritty coming-of-age urban drama “Babygirl,” a nuyorican teen named Lena, portrayed by breakthrough actress Yainis Ynoa (Starz’s “Power”), has taken more of a parental role to her own self-centered single mother Lucy (Rosa Arredondo), whose past includes a series of failed relationships with untrustworthy men.
Single mother Lucy has been placing the burden of caring for
her infant on her angst-ridden teenage daughter Lena, who also works as a
cashier at a local supermarket in the Bronx. Aside from dealing with the
responsibility of caring for her baby sister, Lena’s burgeoning sexuality has triggered
a self-defense mechanism when it comes to a local boy’s interest in her, a
consequence of witnessing her own mother’s mishaps with men. Lena is moody and
conflicted about the world that surrounds her immediate circle: an
attention-seeking best friend and her own mother; yet Lena has forged a strong
bond with the latter, who, despite being a borderline negligent parent, is also
affectionate and loving to Lena.
Conflict arises when Lucy, while aboard a city bus with Lena,
meets a handsome stranger named Victor, who winks at her daughter Lena prior to
striking a conversation with her, a forewarning of what’s to come. The seedy Victor character, played
convincingly with eerie authenticity by Flaco
Navaja (“East WillyB” web series), has set his eyes on Lena while romancing
the unmindful mother, who devotes her all to the new 26-year old boyfriend.
Lena becomes determined to expose her mother’s boyfriend’s
conniving ways. However, the plan backfires in a cleverly orchestrated sequence
of events in which Lena agrees to go on one date with Victor if he disappears
from her mother’s life. Soon after, Lena finds herself conflicted about her own
attraction to Victor, making way to a series of unnervingly realistic scenes
that illustrate a rather disturbing love-triangle.
Actress Yainis Ynoa totally owns her very first acting role
as Lena by conveying a gamut of emotions. Rosa Arredondo, known mostly for TV
roles that include “The Good Wife” and “Person of Interest,” is superb in the role
of a mother who is desperate to win a younger man’s affection. The last confrontation
scenes between the actresses are the most powerful and sobering of the film.
At the center of this heartfelt story is the mother and
daughter relationship. Director Vallely has carefully crafted multi-dimensional
characters that are life-like and complex. When the mother is giving a
sentimental toast on her daughter’s 16th birthday celebration at an
outdoor picnic, the endearing connection is palpable, although such mostly
resembles a close-nit friendship rather than a mother-daughter relationship.
The nuance of these characterizations, along with the great
dialogue and director Vallely’s strong script, makes “Babygirl” a touching, compelling and recommended film to watch.
“Babygirl” is now available on iTunes and VOD: