Director Shannon Murphy (C) poses with actress Eliza Scanlen (L) and actor Toby Wallace during a photocall for the film "Babyteeth" at the 76th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Sept. 4, 2019. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)
VENICE, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- The movie "Babyteeth" by Australian director Shannon Murphy premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, deeply touching the audience with the story of a very young woman facing her own mortality.
Dark and yet strongly humorous -- as in the filmmaker's expressed intentions -- the film explores how 16-year-old Milla (Eliza Scanlen) deals with her serious illness, and how she proves immensely capable of elaborating her fears, and of feeding her lust for life and love.
Falling in love with young drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace), Milla will not hesitate to let herself filled up with this feeling, and with a new will to grow up in the world, despite all difficulties.
With loving Moses, she would at first make her aching parents panic, until she will show them -- and other characters in the movie, like a sensitive music teacher, a child, and a little weird neighbor -- how to live when you have nothing to lose.
Of all the personalities in the movie, Milla and Moses appear perhaps the most complex ones, and the two young actors interpret them with grace, restraint, and full credibility.
Thus, delicately alternating pain and joy, the movie sparks tears and laughter in equal measure.
"Even with the style of the work, which is both dramatic and incredibly humorous... we were not afraid to mess things up," Murphy told the film's press conference.
"These characters are imperfect, and their world is falling apart, so we had to make sure the camera work was reflecting that."
With respects to her stylistic choices, the Australian director also explained all of them were made in order to reflect the young protagonist's interior world.
"Milla is constantly in transition," Murphy stressed. "So we kept shifting when she was shifting and when she was trying to accelerate her life due to the big dramatic piece of news she receives, which changes how she wants to grow in the world."
Asked whether it has been hard to play such a sensitive and complicated role with such restraint, Eliza Scanlen explained she was helped in this -- and the same declared her young colleague Wallace -- by the work of Rita Kalnejais, the film's playwright.
"I think these characters are dark, and they have their own respective issues to face," Scanlen said.
"Yet, Rita approaches this story with such an incredibly unsentimental humor that it makes difficult to wallow in their darkness."
"Babyteeth" well explores how Milla decides to become a young adult despite her lethal illness, and how she is able to gradually lead her parents -- and Moses as well -- to accept, respect, and follow her on this path.
"The dysfunctional family is a very important theme in the film, but I believe we all think Milla is the most mature of the whole (group of characters), actually," Scanlen explained.
"More often than not -- when you are at that age, on the brink of womanhood -- you are trying to navigate and your parents are afraid to let you go."
"So, I really think this film does appeal to a younger audience in a way, and it really pays respect to young people, and to their ability and intelligence," she added.
"Babyteeth" is one of twenty-one films running for the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice Film Festival, which will last until Sept. 7.