Nasty Baby

 

starstarstar

 

 

This new film from Chile’s Sebastián Silva is a sometimes impressive work that seems to change direction as it tells of gay life in Brooklyn.

 

Nasty Baby

Breath of life: Tunde Adebimpe and Kristen Wiig

 

The career of the writer/director Sebastián Silva is a strange one. Starting out in Chile, he impressed hugely with his second film, The Maid, a 2009 prizewinner. Although he continued to use his own country as the location, he turned to English language films in Magic, Magic and Crystal Fairy, both made in 2013 and both works of originality which took him into bizarre territory that only partly convinced. However, his latest feature, Nasty Baby, retaining English as its language and, indeed, set in Brooklyn, initially suggests a homecoming. The Maid – still his one masterpiece – was based on experiences from his youth and even featured scenes shot in his family’s home. The authenticity found there is captured again in Nasty Baby and that is doubtless due to Silva, who is openly gay, making gay issues central for the first time. This is again the work of an insider.

 

In a film that echoes the semi-improvised works of the Duplass brothers, Silva opts to tell the story of a mixed race gay couple, Freddy (Silva himself) and Mo (Tinde Adebimpe). They want to bring up a baby and turn to their friend Polly as sperm donor. Rather unexpectedly in this context, Polly is played by a big name star, Kirsten Wiig. She does very well by the part but the material, despite being novel for a film and despite complications being added (Freddy suffers from a low sperm count and Mo is persuaded to take over), provides a situation rather than a fully-fledged plot. To help out Silva’s screenplay brings in an older gay man, a crazy black known as ‘The Bishop’ who is homophobic and elements connected with Freddy’s work as a video artist.

 

If the potential for development looks limited, the film nevertheless engages in its own unglossy way (there is a real sense of immediacy). But then, as the London Film Festival brochure put it, Silva plays a curve ball. It would be wrong to give away any details, but to my mind the last quarter of Nasty Baby takes on the tone of unconvincing melodrama. It not only fails in its own right but undermines what has gone before. But, if you disagree and find the change of tone invigorating, you will like the film much more than I did.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Sebastián Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Mark Margolis, Alia Shawkat, Reg E. Cathey, Agustin Silva, Anthony Chisholm, Lillias White, Neal Huf.

 

Dir Sebastián Silva, Pro Juan de Dios Larraín and Pablo Larraín and others, Screenplay Sebastián Silva, Ph Sergio Armstrong, Pro Des Nico Arze, Ed Sofía Subercaseaux, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Costumes Mark Grattan.

 

Fabula/Funny Balloons/Versatile.-Network Releasing.
101 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 8 April 2016. Cert. 
15.