Is the modern person too addicted to their smartphone? Are we losing the ability to connect to our fellow humans properly? What if that addictive quality made those closest to us all but invisible? Charlie Sporns explores these questions in his sweet and heartfelt short Baby.
Mimi (Yu Ru Gao) is a 5-year-old girl whose dream is to become an Olympic champion swimmer. There is just one snag, though, as Mimi does not know how to swim. Her father (Qiao bin Wu) has promised to teach her, but he is always on his phone. So, Mimi steals his phone and throws it into the ocean.
The next two days are the happiest of her life, as Mimi and her dad play and talk and bond in a way that never occurred before. But then, his new cell phone arrives, and once again, he is a digital zombie. To that end, Mimi steals the new phone and gives the same ultimatum as before. Will her dad finally learn the error of his ways? Will Mimi fulfill her dream and swim?
Baby starts with an interview of sorts with Mimi, where she describes her dream and her issues with her dad, lasting around 3-minutes. Then the movie transitions to the narrative proper, starting just before the dad’s new phone arrives. The change of style works nicely, as the interview perfectly showcases Mimi’s sweet nature, energy, and enthusiasm. This immediately gets the audience to like and empathize with her.
“Her father has promised to teach her, but he is always on his phone. So, Mimi steals his phone…”
But there is one problem in the directing. Near the end, the dad walks into the ocean, and the camera changes to appear to be footage recorded on a phone. While this works from a thematic standpoint, it does not make sense. See, there is nobody else around to have recorded it, so it is a jarring and confusing shift that takes longer to adjust to than it should.
Mind you, this is a minor problem that only mildly distracts from everything else and does not impact the earnest ending too much. Of course, the witty writing and honest emotions present in the screenplay greatly help matters. From the get-go, Mimi is adorable and spunky. Baby deals with her father’s phone addiction seriously, so even though the movie is a comedy, it still finds a way to say something profound.
Of course, none of this would be possible without a cast that could make it all believably come to life. For my money, this is the best thing about Baby. Yu Ru Gao, as Mimi is delightful and fun. She’s full of moxie, and her desire to bond with dad rings true. As the checked out papa, Qiao bin Wu is also quite good. Over dinner, Mimi is asking him about going swimming the next day. The way Wu just brushes it off, until he gets his wife to calm Mimi down is heartbreaking.
Baby is cute, sweet, and has something on its mind. Minor style confusion aside, the film perfectly hits its mark on all fronts. What more could you ask for from a 10-minute short?
"…cute, sweet, and has something on its mind."