It's ironic that 1-year-old Hattie from San Francisco goes to the zoo to watch the animals toward the end of this film, because at that point I felt like I was at a zoo watching animals. And like in a zoo, the animals don't do much of anything.
Director Thomas Balmes follows four babies immediately after they're born. The first two are boys: Ponijao from Namibia in South Africa and Bayar from Mongolia. The other two are girls: Mari from Japan and Hattie from the United States.
There is no narration, no subtitles, no story arc, no purpose at all. It's just objective, naked observance of the daily activities of babies, which includes suckling, laying on their backs staring blankly up at things, waving arms and legs, making noises, trying to grab and eat whatever they can, as well as urinating and defecating on themselves.
Balmes has hardly any wide shots. Mostly he has close-ups of the babies. While it makes the movie cute, it hardly gives it any context. Balmes never explains what the reason is for this film's existence. For the four families photographed, Balmes has crafted an adorable album for them to enjoy, but why should anyone else on Earth care?
Balmes shows a montage of the babies crawling and then another of them trying to stand and walk. I suppose in these instances we get an idea of the universality of the human experience, but that alone is not worth the price of admission.
The only other moment of interest is just the mere contrast between the baby living in the desert of Africa versus the baby living in downtown Tokyo. The striking difference going from sand to skyscraper is remarkable. For example, the grooming habits of people who are essentially Bushmen will probably catch most Westerners or those of more modern cultures off guard.
Some, if any, background would have been appreciated. Why did the filmmaker choose these particular families? How did he go about asking them, especially the people in Namibia? What did he hope to get? Documenting the boring yet curious lives of these babies was noble, but without a narrative structure it lacked motivation or momentum, or any kind of compelling drive beyond a chronological slog.