There’s a lot to be said for comedy. It’s one of the most diverse genres, with some of the highest and lowest rated films of all time. Comedies can be sweet and gentle, or crude and juvenile. The best comedies, however, use their jokes and humour to sucker punch the audience with incredible performances and heavy issues. Baby Done is one such comedy, from the production team that brought us Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Breaker Upperers.
It’s a pretty simple formula. Date, engage, marry, baby, done. But Zoe and Tim are happy where they are. They’re happy with their jobs, they’re happy with their relationship, and they’re happy being one of the last unmarried and childless couples in their friendship group. They’re so happy as they are, in fact, that when an unplanned pregnancy comes into the mix, Zoe becomes determined to not let the new addition “change” them. It’s a refreshing take for a comedy, one that doesn’t brand itself as a romantic comedy and gear itself exclusively towards female audiences—the pregnancy is as much Tim’s responsibility as it is Zoe’s. And it’s especially refreshing to see a comedy spin the trope of the reluctant father-to-be on its head. This time, Zoe is the one freaking out over the loss of independence and agency that a child brings, whilst Tim busies himself with antenatal classes and “nesting”.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople beautifully handled the complexities of growing up, and highlighted the significance of a found family for young and old alike. Similarly, Boy, written and directed by Taika Waititi, deals with the end of childhood and the often disappointing reality of adulthood. It’s these themes of growth and accepting inevitable change that also run through Baby Done.
New Zealand is making a name for itself as the new home of wholesome, charming comedies that tackle serious issues in mindful ways, and a large part of this brilliance is owed to the cast. Rose Matafeo stars as Zoe, shining as a hilarious and fiercely independent young woman who refuses to allow the pregnancy with her long-term partner turn them into “dickheads”. Zoe is the friend you call when you need honest, no-holds-barred advice; she’s also the friend you sometimes want to grab and remind that things can’t always go her way. Tim, played by Matthew Lewis (yep, Neville Longbottom) is her opposite. Where Tim is content with the slower pace of life that a child brings, Zoe is frustrated. Where he is happy to grow old with Zoe in domestic bliss, Zoe refuses to settle. On paper they’re night and day, and perhaps a less charismatic pairing of actors would make this contrast more apparent. For the audience, it’s pure joy to watch Matafeo and Lewis act alongside each other—their chemistry is obvious, and Lewis holds his own throughout the film (no easy feat, given Matafeo’s screen presence).
In an industry filled with adaptations, sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, it’s pretty special to see an original film with a cast who obviously have tangible chemistry. It’s even more special when it’s a film such as this one, which elicits so much emotion in its audience. The entire third act is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes (it certainly brought tears to mine). Any new release in 2020 is cause for excitement, but a new release in 2020 that doesn’t get lost amongst all of the big studio blockbusters is something to celebrate. If the trajectory of Baby Done is anything like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, then expect a lot more of Rose Matafeo on international screens in the future.
Baby Done has done what a lot of modern films fail to do—stay with you after the credits have finished rolling. It’s a film you can watch with anyone, at any time. But it still reaches your heart, wriggling it’s way inside and curling up when it finds a comfortable spot.
Baby Done is in cinemas on the 22nd of October.