In a state of nonsensical vitriol, Monia Chokri’s ‘Babysitter’ opens in a whirlwind of back-handed harassment. Crowds, screams, and insults are heard in the sweat-drenched congregation of a French-Canadian associated cage-fight. In all of its exuding testosterone, the sequence coincides with the hyper-cut conversation between a group of grown-men and their flirtatious pursuits with the film’s thematic ultimatum. Chokri’s mise-en-scène whirls and violently pans between each of the characters; as the insular misogynists continuously berate the presence of a group of young women. The opening scene —all shot in unpredictable celluloid— is a perfect precursor for the madness to come; a film that relentlessly assaults its viewer through the unhinged command of the moving image. At its core, through its pulp pastiche and often humorous satire, Babysitter’s reflexive commentary on the pretentiousness of performativity provides ample food for thought amidst its various hijinks-infused sequences of cinematic chaos. 

A insecure man is forced to desert his social life after a mass-wide internet cancellation. We all know the story. An accusation, a subsequent hiatus, and a presumed comeback. In Chokri’s film, the only distinguishable difference between reality and its linear depiction of events is the hyperactive gaze at the forefront of its shifting perspectives. In order to achieve its intended critique, Chokri cleverly paints her suburban paradise with lush colours and vivid historical connections. Mimicking the nuclear family pastiche which once consumed outdated furniture magazines and local newspapers; the exuding warm atmosphere directly confronts the boorish behaviour of the film’s lead protagonist and his journey for absolution within the scandalous public view. 

Still Courtesy – BAC Films

Other subtle visual references include an acute visual-focus towards growing fauna; an aspect that brought back fond memories of two uniquely different French-Canadian productions from Chokri’s inspired time-period. Both Norman McLaren’s Neighbours (1952) and Amanita Pestilens (1963) find themselves nestled in vibrant commentary; utilising the metaphor of growing fauna as narrative takedowns against the social normalisation of toxic masculinity. The same applies for Chokri’s feature, as flowers bloom when a young Babysitter enters the picture and begins to change the hearts and minds of the film’s problematic protagonist and his seemingly distressed family. 

Babysitter‘s greatest gambit is ultimately in its performances and seemingly distracted progression of events. As masculinity and toxicity is portrayed within the confines of eccentric cartoonish movement, the film’s coinciding narrative slightly fumbles with its emotional richness. Even as the subplots meander and Catherine Léger’s screenplay loses sight of her end-target, there’s still a beating purpose and welcoming commentary at the film’s distraught core. If anything, the directional ruminations provide enlightening questions for the audience — insightful and often impactful interrogative filmmaking that dares to question the fantasies and livelihood of its male viewership. In order to progress and move towards a more accepting society, we must listen and avoid jumping the wave of social performativity and the exasperated will for social hierarchy. In order to move on as better people, one must make amends first with the inner-self. Blaming the unrelated actions of others is simply reductive. If anything, Monia Chokri’s followup to her criminally underrated romantic comedy ‘A Brother’s Love’ is a messy wake-up call in the dead of contemporary suburbia.

Still Courtesy – BAC Films
Babysitter premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, as part of the ‘Midnight’ category. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

By David Cuevas

David Cuevas is a writer, reporter, and the official festivals editor (US/Canada) for FilmHounds Magazine. In his spare time, you can find him watching a bunch of movies while contemplating on his own existence.