2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Do you adore babies? Itty-bitty, cutesy-wutesy tykes who breast-feed and burp, mutter gibberish and make messes, spit up and stare at adults with wonderment? The kind of chubby-cheeked cherubs who wail like banshees before flashing smiles guaranteed to turn your heart to mush? If so, then Thomas Balmes’s docu-portrait of four newborns in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco, respectively, is the cinematic narcotic you’ve been waiting for. Say hello to a heaping nonfiction helping of heartwarming infant footage designed to make you go “awwww” by any means necessary.

The director spent two years following his quartet of families, accumulating a wealth of material that he presents, sans narration, as a chronological snapshot of humanity’s first developmental year. Irresistible sights abound, from a little one flailing about in a frustrated tantrum to another wisely attempting to leave a class that’s engaged in a weird sing-along about Mother Earth. Yet despite the many sociocultural differences on display—child-rearing techniques, geographic and economic contexts in which the kids are raised—the film habitually sidesteps any investigating of issues brought up by the diversity of the children’s circumstances. Babies is barely more insightful than your average Flickr photo gallery or home movie clip: it’s just infant porn for prospective parents.—Nick Schager

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