2021 Fantasia Film Festival Festival Coverage

2021 Fantasia Film Festival: Baby Money ★ ★ ½

From the diverse and wonderful selection of the Fantasia Film Festival, Baby Money is one of those that strikes the audiences with its somewhat typical-for-the-genre yet still beautifully executed. Written by MJ Palo & Mikhael Bassilli and directed by Luc Walpoth & Mikhael Bassilli, the 2021 thriller focuses on a pregnant woman’s one-night-criminal-adventure with her partner and his friends.

The story takes off with Gil (Michael Drayer) and his fellow criminals breaking into an old couple’s home to retrieve a box while Gil’s partner Minny (Danay Garcia) waits in the drive-away car, yet things go south and as the result of an unexpected shooting, the couple find themselves seeking a way out of the distressing situation.

Speaking of such, the film has a refreshing approach to shootings, where everything is not over-stylized to present maximum action but rather remains simple and realistic. This is in part due to the acting, where the main cast shines in their relatable take on human psyche in such stressful situations. In that regard, the actors’ fitting performance is at times overshadowed by the dialogue that tends to be a bit too simple and straightforward here and there; furthermore, some of the traits of the characters to make them relatable stands out too much as a result of them being somewhat cliché. Nevertheless, the actors do their best to break through the slightly-problematic barriers the writing sets.

The premise is likewise simple and Baby Money never attempts to overachieve with its story direction; on the contrary, it keeps its stable pacing from the beginning to the end. That might be somewhat unappealing to some in the audience, as admittedly, most movies have a clear build-up, whether it be directly introduction, progression and conclusion or an altered form of three- or five-act story, so Baby Money’s formula, while being technically the same, never attempts a climax or a build-up and continues the way it begins.This has both a positive and negative impact, as it feels monotonous but also perfectly reasonable and realistic. In addition, the simplicity is enriched with details that do not stand out unnecessarily, but rather blend in with the rest of the storytelling.

The story is therefore also worthy of praise, as it unfolds with its small yet mostly unexpected turns. Only one or two of those turns fall flat, though overlooking them is not too difficult given that the rest works out harmoniously.

One of the subtle strengths of the film is its beautiful soundtrack. Granted, music is one of the most subjective categories in filmmaking, nevertheless, even if its appeal would not be clear to some, they would most likely still appreciate how well it fits the film. This is most evident from the opening credits, where the music sets the tone of the film accompanied by a great opening segment design.

Just like the music, the atmosphere is also crafted with the same care and focus so that it fits the storytelling in a gloomy manner. It makes sense both story-wise and to the atmosphere of the story that most of the scenes occur at night, portraying the tense situation perfectly. 

Nevertheless, apart from the aforementioned small bumps along the ride, the ending of Baby Money feels close to falling apart. It still functions well on most layers, yet for the execution of the film that far, one might expect something more creative and out of ordinary than what the audience is presented with. As previously explained, the film never reaches a climax, which some might have an issue with, even if it is logical to the story. In the end, Baby Money still manages a satisfying wrap-up, though one might wonder where else the story could have led. 

No matter its shortcomings, Baby Money still succeeds at being an interesting title in this year’s selection, even if only appreciated for music and atmosphere. There is lots of talent here that has the possibility to reach new highs, and Baby Money is a title that proves what the directors, writers and the actors of the film are capable of.

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