EIFF 2021: ‘Ninjababy’ Review
One of the most explosive taboos we still have in society is the one reserved for women who don’t want to have children. It’s one of those things that gets endlessly questioned, often accompanied with pitying glances, a side order of judgement, and a suggestion that you aren’t a real woman unless you procreate. I’ve always found this suggestion to be deeply misogynistic, and it infuriates me that this totally normal and harmless choice has still not been normalised in our society.
How delighted I was then when I realised that ‘Ninjababy’, the brilliantly funny and moving Norwegian film from director Yngvild Sve Flikke was about a character who categorically and passionately doesn’t want kids. I just hoped the film would treat her truthfully and give an honest voice to this subject matter. I’m happy to report that it certainly does that, and so much more.
Kristine Thorp is Rakel, a twenty-something cartoonist who lives with her best friend Ingrid (Tora Dietrichson). She likes beer and sex and partying, and her life is a bit chaotic, but the mess is perfectly ordered and she is happy. When bigger boobs and a change in appetite prompt Ingrid to make Rakel take a pregnancy test, it would be an understatement to say she is disappointed with the result. An abortion is quickly booked, and she goes to the appointment with Mos (Nader Khademi) who she thinks is the father.
The ultra sound however reveals that she is over six-months pregnant, and that whilst it is rare, some women can get this far in their pregnancy without it showing. Abortion is now out of the question, and Rakel has to start looking at other options. She refers to the foetus as “a fucking rotten sneaky ninjababy who thinks it can chill there for nine months and then sneak out.”
The film then takes a surreal twist. Giving us a peak into Rakel’s inner thoughts and feelings, a cartoon ninjababy she has doodled comes to life and starts talking to her. If you’re detecting ‘Look Who’s Talking’ vibes, fear not. Ninjababy tells her things like it wants to be adopted by Angelina Jolie, and can’t believe that she let its father fuck her in the first place.
The film is so refreshingly upfront about the situation, pulling no punches either in how the plot develops (there are no mawkish revelations) or how it portrays Rakel. The filmmakers give Kristine Thorp (who is spectacular) the room to make Rakel a fully realised and incredibly relatable person. She’s not always likeable, but she’s real. And so, so funny. The early scenes as she pieces together how she ended up in this situation, with flashback cutaways, and memories playing out alongside the present day are frequently laugh out loud funny.
The supporting cast are uniformly excellent as well. From Nader Khademi, as the sweet-natured and nerdy aikido instructor, Mos, to Arthur Berning who puts in a hilariously douchey performance as Dick Jesus (not his real name) the father to be. There’s also terrific support from Tora Dietrichson as Ingrid, and Silya Nymoen as Rakel’s half-sister.
Naturally, as things develop, and very grown-up decisions have to be made, the snappy comedic flippancy gives way to a really moving and insightful piece of work that captures the wild complexities of Rakel’s situation, and most importantly, it has the conviction to stay true and stay the course. I can’t recommend this film enough. Seek it out if you can.