Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Yngvild Save Flikke
Writers: Johan Fasting, Yngvild Sve Flikke, Inga Sætre
Starring: Kristine Kujath Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi
By Caz Armstrong
Ninjababy is a Norwegian comedy drama about a messy young artist, Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) who discovers she is pregnant with an unwanted child. While not exactly heavy on plot this film makes up for it in charm, humour and emotion.
Rakel is skatty, awkward and unkempt. Her room is untidy, there are dirty plates everywhere and none of her clothes match. She lives life in the moment. On discovering an unwanted pregnancy her life rapidly changes and she’s forced to grow up and look at the bigger picture.
Right from the start she knows she doesn’t want the child which is a strength of the film’s message: it’s ok to not want to be a parent. But in exploring her options we see that even people who don’t want to be parents are capable of still wanting the best for any children they do have.
Rakel explores adoption, abortion, family care, and the ability of the father to properly raise a child. Each comes with pros and cons which have to be weighed against her own desires and abilities. Meanwhile an animated version of her baby, “Ninjababy” (voiced by Herman Tommeraas) is never far from her side, bringing a voice to the child she doesn’t want.
The end result is humorous and poignant, with just the right mix of levity and emotion to deliver a powerful punch.
The film deals with some thorny topics which will make it difficult for some to watch even though it is done with great sensitivity. The humor in the film is always leveled at Rakel and her awkwardness, not the situation she’s in.
Topics raised include abortion, contraceptive responsibility, parenthood and child loss. It’s progressive while always keeping the discussion open and honest. After all, these are not decisions anyone takes lightly.
While a couple of lengthy tent-pole scenes do a lot of the heavy lifting in this space it’s refreshing to open up the conversation around responsibility and societal judgement. Women endure the burden of preventing pregnancies by altering their hormones, undergoing painful IUDs and suffering many side effects. They also endure either the pregnancy and burden of childcare, or the blame of abortion. Compared with all that a simple vasectomy seems like nothing.
The animated Ninjababy is adorable but mature, expressing its own opinions and suggestions. Different types of stop motion and hand-drawn animations are sprinkled through the film help to bring Rakel’s thoughts and aspirations to life, and to help elevate the tone into something lighter. It’s a fresh and creative way to explore what may otherwise be a rather upsetting subject.
In contrast, the colour palette for the real world here is very grey and blue. The message we could take is that it’s a cold world and underneath any surface humour everyone is just trying their best to get by.
Ninjababy is full of natural heartfelt performances and touching moments. It’s also refreshing and honest. So while the underlying story isn’t exactly complex it makes for a very enjoyable film with some important points to make along the way.