No matter what some people may say, no matter how much they may scream and yell at the top of their lungs that it is otherwise, we are all far more the same than we are different. Perhaps nothing brings that fact into such stark relief as looking at children. They may have slightly different toys, they may dress differently or talk differently, and they may look different, but they're the same the world over. In his latest film, Babies, director Thomas Balmes follows four babies from four different countries from their birth until their first steps and documents just how similar we all are.
Balmes cuts back and forth between the four babies – Hattie from San Francisco, Bayarjargal from Mongolia, Ponijao from Namibia, and Mari from Tokyo – exploring how, despite the different cultures, babies have a tendency to all respond in the same way, learn similar things, and advance in a similar fashion. Some of this, one could (maybe successfully) argue, is potentially a lie created through the magic editing. Just because you see children do things in four different parts of the world one after another doesn't mean that it happened remotely at the same point in their life – that the magic of editing makes it appear as though it has. It is possibly true that the editing of the film has helped heighten the similarities, but as everything happens before the kids can walk, there really is not a lot of shifting of time that can occur.
That is, in essence, the brilliance of the film – it is so simple and yet so wonderful. More or less, the film is just watching these moments in the lives of various babies. The camera is on them, focused on them. Parents, siblings, animals, everything else, is purely incidental. You sit there for 79 minutes (it's a short full-length film) and watch the babies interact (or not) with the world around them. It is not (or at least ought not be) an amazing revelation, but the revelation the film delivers is that we are all more the same than different. Some of the lessons Babies gives us – kids will get into trouble, they always do the most interesting thing when you're not looking, pets are fun, and siblings cause issues – are things we probably already knew, but that are great to watch unfold in their simplicity anyway.