Fantasia 2021: BABY, DON’T CRY

“Do you know who you are…and where you’re going to?”

It was the title (which is also shared by one of my favorite INXS songs) and the incredibly exquisite poster which drew me to Baby, Don’t Cry in the first place. Yet I had no idea that one of the more deceptively telling selections at the festival would be this small drama straight from the heart of the Pacific Northwest. Known more as a fest who has made their name spotlighting the newest voices in sci-fi, fantasy and horror, Fantasia were clearly drawn to this story which touches on a myriad of subjects straight from today’s world for an indie drama experience that maintains an intimacy and accessibility like few others.

Jesse Dvorak directs a script written by Zita Bai who also stars as Baby, a 17-year-old Chinese immigrant. Splitting her time between school, a part-time domestic job and a troubled home life, Baby spends her time observing the world around her while secretly nurturing her dreams of becoming a filmmaker. When she meets Fox (Vas Provatakis), a 20-year-old from the wrong side of the tracks, an attraction leads to a romance complicated by the broken nature of both characters.

Despite it’s rather straightforward plot, Baby, Don’t Cry isn’t the kind of film that’s easy to predict the journey it will take its characters on. Bai has written a script which shows a girl coming into her own, breaking free from the life she’s been given and choosing the life she’s instinctively pulled towards. Baby’s transformation from shy and quiet teen to a young woman with the kind of agency to match her wonder and curiosity makes for the kind of worthwhile protagonist needed for the kind of emotional investment a film such as this is so heavily dependent upon.

I’ve always been a sucker for damaged people leaning on other damaged people, and Baby, Don’t Cry is an excellent example as to why this theme continues to work. Both actors beautifully tap into their character’s wounded nature as they remain both afraid and intoxicated by one another. Baby and Fox are two people who have been written off by a society which has them pegged through images which don’t suit them beyond the surface. But the two recognize the souls within each other. Baby, Don’t Cry doesn’t make all the right choices, but it makes enough of them to get totally caught up in this unconventional, yet beautiful love story.

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