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The Independent Critic

Erin Kearns, Michael Buxton, Yiana Pandelis, Daniel Facciolo, Sarah Dute, Daniel Reader, Albert Goikhman
James Di Martino
Llewellyn Michael Bates

 Movie Review: Baby 
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It's possibly quite appropriate that the first film journalist to actually review James Di Martino's latest short film Baby happens to be a film journalist with significant disabilities. As a paraplegic/double amputee with spina bifida who also just survived two types of cancer, it practically goes without saying that I'm passionate about the narrative presented in this incredibly engaging 19-minute short directed by Di Martino from a script by Llewellyn Michael Bates. 

In the film, Mikaela (Erin Kearns) is a young woman with Down Syndrome who witnesses a tragic hit-and-run accident involving a pregnant woman. This experience encourages Mikaela to set in motion her life's desire to have a baby. 

Refreshingly told through the lens of our main characters, Mikaela and Eric (Michael Buxton), Baby is the kind of film that leaves you wanting more time with these characters and especially Mikaela and Eric. Both are residents of a group home, Eric a charming lad who shares Mikaela's fandom of popular television show "You're the Father!." When two successfully conceive, Mikaela faces the challenge of having a healthy child. With fierce determination, she keeps pushing forward with her delightful sister, Jess (Yiana Pandelis), both protecting and supporting along the way. 

There's also a refreshing normalcy here. Disabled people live in the community. Disabled people have sex. Disabled people get married, have children, and do the vast majority of things in life that non-disabled folks do. Baby maintains a realistic tone throughout, never spiraling into maudlin or cutesie inspirational tropes. It's a realistic story told realistically and exploring an element of the disability experience not often captured on film. 

While Di Martino's direction is excellent and Bates's storytelling quite involving, the truth is that the real strength of Baby comes from co-leads Kearns and Buxton. They're a lovely couple and incredibly believable throughout. Kearns possesses a warm, spirited charisma that comes alive on-camera and Buxton is such a delight here that it's no wonder she wants to have his baby. Yiana Pandelis is also wonderful as Jess.

Alexander Naughton's lensing for the film is intimate and observational. Naughton's lens realizes these are two beautiful people and captures that incredibly well. Naughton captures the little nuances of a relationship and really brings them to life. 

Baby is set for its world premiere at Park City, Utah's Slamdance Film Festival later this month. This Australian-made film is an absolute gem destined to be an audience favorite. 

BABY Slamdance Screening information:
Friday, January 19 at 10:30AM 
The Yarrow – Theater A 

Monday, January 22 at 3:00PM
The Student Union Theater at University of Utah

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic