A video where a grown-up man impersonates a newborn baby. That’s what Freddy, a Latin artist who we have just met at his –very Brooklyn-looking– apartment, proposes to the owner of an Art gallery in the first scene of Nasty Baby, the last movie of Chilean director Sebastián Silva, screened last Monday at Barcelona International Independent Film Festival.
Our hero’s play arises from his emotions, clearly reflecting what’s going on in his life. Freddy, an artist who lives with his boyfriend, is trying to “make a baby” with his best friend, Polly, perfectly played by Kristen Wiig. But Freddy’s sperm is poor and his partner Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) will be the one in charge to help Polly become a mother. Personal evolution brings professional changes and Freddy’s creation ends up becoming a group project when a bunch of friends join him in his artistic journey.
Silva wrote, directed and starred in a movie where the characters are introduced in the most realistic way possible, each and every one of them showing an infinity of nuances. Young professionals in a gentrified Brooklyn full of tension between the resisting old neighbors and a whole new class of occupants, with more purchase power and greater demands. Viewers know something is going to happen but never get to realize where Silva’s directing skills are going to take them.
The conflict comes in late, when we have learned to love Freddy, Mo and Polly; when we finally understand them and see ourselves in Mo’s inaction or Freddy’s anger. The conflict comes and catches us off guard, and tears our world apart; and captures us even more. Everything we had felt for these characters is now put in question and we find ourselves in an inner moral debate. Essential for the conflict are the couple’s neighbors: The Bishop and his partner, played by Reg E. Cathey and Constance Shulman, who we know from House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, among others.
The movie’s realism increases with the diversity it shows. The most real New York diversity brought to us by a number of cultures and accents. And even languages, as we hear a very Chilean Spanish every time Freddy speaks with his brother Chino (Agustín Silva), which is surprising in a North-American production filmed in English.
At the end, what started to look as one of the main elements of the movie, the play, Nasty Baby, becomes a mere anecdote to let Freddy, Mo, and Polly’s ease shine, as does their world, turned upside down by a cluster of accidental actions that will hunt the viewer for days after having left the theatre.