- In Pictures
- Meat Market
- Union Square
Lena grapples with the challenges of navigating life as a Bronx teenager while watching her troubled mother, Lucy, get physically and emotionally involved with a succession of men.
Neither melodramatic nor farcical, the film strikes a near-perfect balance between seriousness and humor — beginning from the first frame, as the credits roll against a backdrop of neatly synchronized urban sketches.
Engaging right through its poignant ending, when Lena’s bond with Lucy is put to the test and their vulnerabilities are brashly exposed, “Babygirl” draws its strength from the mother and daughter’s underlying devotion to each other — despite their flaws and conflicting agendas.
Expertly played by Yainis Ynoa, Lena is captivating throughout. She is unflaggingly protective of her mother — exposing the questionable behavior of her mother’s latest boy toy, Victor, and showing spunk as she pushes away potential boyfriends for herself. Her soft side manifests when she reciprocates Victor’s affection and lets her guard down with her crush, Xavier — making Lena at once credible and relatable. Lucy’s character is also intriguing, but she is more predictable and stereotypical.
Vallely’s infusion of subtleties keeps you continuously in suspense or otherwise entertained — as when Lena, carrying a knife, approaches the front door of her mother’s apartment to let Victor in, and when she, Victor and Lucy are frantically calling one another to divulge secrets and vent.
Although peppered with witty dialogue that invigorates its often predictable scenes, the film lacks essential bits of context. We never find out about Lena’s absent father, or how Lucy makes enough of a living to keep food on the table for her two children. We’re also left to speculate about whether Lena, who works at a grocery store, dropped out of school. These details would have given viewers a broader understanding of the characters, their lifestyle and the motivation for their choices.
These flaws, as notable as they are, can’t detract from the gritty, powerful world that Vallely has created — in which the flaws of a mother and daughter are no match for the strength of their enduring bond.
Written & Directed by Macdara Vallely
In English & Spanish with English subtitles
Runtime: 77 Minutes
Fri. 4/27, 9:00pm at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea. Also available through April 29 at the Tribeca Online Film Festival (visit tribecafilm.com).