I gather that the mere mention of Sebastián Silva’s name is enough to cause some cinephiles to angrily wave their clenched fists about in a frenzy, but I couldn’t see anything in the Chilean’s latest films that would reasonably warrant such an outburst. For an hour or so this New York-set drama – in which the director also acts – potters along unremarkably, alternating between gently mocking its thirty-something hipster characters and sweetly showing their good sides; a bit like a Noah Baumbach movie, I suppose, though it’s not as witty or as engaging, plus there’s an underlying threat of violence here. Silva’s character Freddy is a performance artist, whose forthcoming new piece Nasty Baby will see him strip off and act like a baby in front of a black curtain, while it also seems to involve various friends and oddly-photoshopped images; he’s in a relationship with Mo (Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer with the band TV On The Radio), and together the pair are trying to impregnate their single friend Polly (Kristen Wiig), who feels her biological clock is a-ticking. This is partly the film’s focus, though gradually we see more and more of a mentally ill man called The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey), who hangs around outside their appartment building and gradually begins to cause the three a variety of headaches (a situation they escalate to a certain degree through a childish prank). The final act includes the kind of wild switch in register that’s starting to become a little tiresome in independent cinema, and Silva uses a few incidents to take Nasty Baby in what is supposed to be an unexpected direction, which does at least jolt the film out of its cosy neighbourhood vibe. It becomes something darker, edgier, and indeed nastier, but I’m not convinced it works, despite the best efforts of the actors involved, and it leaves a sour taste in the mouth regarding the fate of one of the characters, which I guess is supposed to be the point. Cathey – who has shined in TV shows like The Wire and House Of Cards – is good, and there’s a nice supporting turn by Mark Margolis as a friendly neighbour of Freddy and Mo’s.
Directed by: Sebastián Silva.
Written by: Sebastián Silva.
Starring: Sebastián Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Kristen Wiig, Reg E. Cathey, Mark Margolis.
Cinematography: Sergio Armstrong.
Editing: Sofía Subercaseaux.
Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans.
Running Time: 101 minutes.