Australian actress Eliza Scanlen made a powerful impression two years ago for her turn in the sweaty, southern gothic HBO miniseries “Sharp Objects” as Amy Adams’ rollerskating, teenaged sister. She did it again in 2019 as Beth March in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.” Finally, the 21-year-old rising star has a vehicle of her own with first-time feature director Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth” as a terminally ill young woman in love with a small-time drug dealer. “Babyteeth” broke out of the Venice Film Festival last summer, before heading off to the BFI London Film Festival and beyond. Check out the first trailer below.
Scanlen plays 16-year-old Milla, a cancer patient who’s fallen hard for raffish fellow teenager Moses (Toby Wallace, who picked up a young actor award out of Venice) on the quote-unquote wrong side of the tracks. Her infatuation comes much to the chagrin of her parents, played by Aussie power actors Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn, but it also brings for Milla a renewed seize-the-day vim, enabling her to teach her mom and dad a thing or two along the way.
The film is written by Rita Kalnejais, who adapted “Babyteeth” from her own play. Prior to “Babyteeth,” Murphy helmed episodes of the popular espionage series “Killing Eve,” as well as the Australian boxing miniseries “On the Ropes.” “Babyteeth” has garnered enormous praise along its festival run, with IndieWire’s David Ehrlich giving his seal of approval with a B+ review.
“Despite a handful of shaky moments and a story that sounds like a supercut of all the worst tropes in contemporary independent cinema, Shannon Murphy’s primal and surefooted debut never falls into either mawkishness or sadism,” Ehrlich wrote. “It keeps you on your toes from the moment it starts, brings together a winsome but wounded group of people who are all struggling to slay the ‘tiny gods’ in their heads, and then forces them through an ordeal that might just break their hearts. And yours.”
Ehrlich added that Scanlen’s performance “is sensationally feral and resilient, foaming at the mouth but feeling everything around her; she enables Milla to feel powerless and indomitable at the same time.”
Here’s the full trailer for “Babyteeth,” which IFC Films will release on demand on June 19, and possibly in theaters.