Babysitter is creative, charming and provocative, even if not everything that director Monia Cokri throws at the wall is quite able to stick.

Sundance Film Review: Babysitter


Sundance Film Review: Babysitter
Director: Monia Chokri

BAC Films
Premieres: 01.22 at 9:30 p.m. MST

The subjects of sexism, misogyny and behavior that leads to serious consequences are both timely and serious. In Babysitter, the bold new French Canadian film from director/actress Monia Chokri, they also prove to be surprisingly ripe for comedy.

The story of Babysitter begins when Cédric (Patrick Hivon) goes to a boxing match, gets drunk and kisses a female reporter on live television. The clip goes viral and Cédric is suspended from his job, and he finds himself home with his girlfriend Nadine (Chokri) and their baby. When Nadine decides to end her maternity leave and head back to work, Cédric hires Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) a 22-year-old nanny, as he struggles to find a way out of his predicament. Cédric’s overbearing brother Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante) confronts him about his misogynistic behavior and tendencies, and as Cédric begins to write a letter of apology to the reporter, it snowballs into a book of open letters apologizing to women everywhere. 

While ostensibly a serious effort, the book quickly devolves into an opportunistic and narcissistic exercise, with Jean-Michel pushing his way into the project and Cédric dreaming of fame and adoration. Meanwhile, Amy proves to be a provocative presence in the household, as her free-spirited nature and her frank way of speaking—not to mention her considerable beauty—start to have different effects on every member of the family.  

Chokri directs from a screenplay by Catherine Léger, adapted from her own stage play, and Chokri’s colorful and flamboyant visual style makes for a good match to the comic absurdities of the material. The more posturing that the brothers do about exploring and exploiting their ideas of progressive enlightenment, the more self important and condescending they become. Amy is a figure somewhere between Lolita and Mary Poppins, and Jean-Michel obsesses over her while Nadine yearns to have Amy’s youth and freedom.  

Babysitter is an uneven but often amusing comedy about self absorption and the difference between being woke and just telling yourself and everyone else that you aren’t tired. Tereszkiewicz gives a strong performance as Amy, making a big impression, as does Chokri, while the men—especially Hivon—give in to too much mugging and milking. Babysitter is wryly insightful, but its ambitions sometimes overwhelm the movie; there are times when I found myself wondering whether Chokri wasn’t quite sure what she was trying to say or whether I was simply too much of a clueless man to catch it. Perhaps that’s exactly the point, but I frequently found myself wondering whether an American adaptation, which seems inevitable if Babysitter achieves any substantial success, would be something that simply can’t capture the appeal of Chokri’s vision or whether it would be an opportunity to iron out the kinks.

Babysitter is creative, charming and provocative, even if not everything that Cokri throws at the wall is quite able to stick. It makes for a vivid and memorable decoration that will prove to be a great conversation piece. –Patrick Gibbs