VOD film review: Ninjababy
Charlotte Harrison | On 12, Sep 2021
Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke
Cast: Kristine Kujath Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi
Ninjababy feels like a new addition to a cluster of films, alongside things such as Obvious Child (2014), Saint Frances (2019) and Baby Done (2020), that are unafraid of exploring societal expectations of women – particularly when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood. All four films feel like a breath of fresh air, perfectly balancing humour with heart to honestly expose what goes on under the surface. However, Ninjababy may just be the rudest, crudest and delightful of the bunch.
23 year-old Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) has all sorts of plans and dreams, but she doesn’t give herself the chance to fully explore or stick with any of them. She’s an illustrator, sort of, yet hasn’t really stuck with it. She could probably be described as having a quarter life crisis, but really there’s no crisis here. She’s happy enough living a day-to-day existence with best friend Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) and going on adventures together. What she never anticipated, and is most definitely not prepared for, is finding out she’s pregnant with nothing she can do about it. After all, she can barely look after herself, let alone a child.
There are so many fantastic things about Ninjababy, it takes great restraint to not just splurge out a stream of consciousness of praise. Fundamentally, the greatest thing about this film is it’s tone and relatability. Rakel feels like the truest representation of a woman in her early 20s that we’ve ever had on the screen. She’s messy, figuratively and literally. She doesn’t have all, or any, of the answers. She doesn’t have a quip for every comment that comes her way. She doesn’t always make the best or right choices. She has no idea what she is doing at all, careening from one disaster to the next – it just happens to be that this latest one has the greatest of consequences. There’s no condemnation of Rakel in the slightest, her casual sex and use of recreational drug are referred to with refreshing honesty and matter-of-factness. Similarly handled is the fact that Rakel doesn’t instantly develop a maternal instinct upon hearing she’s pregnant, nor does it instantly force her to grow up or know what she is doing.
Kristine Kujath Thorp plays her so fantastically, with a performance that is nuanced yet has total heart and compassion. She’s a joyous whirlwind, creator of chaos and communicater of candour who is somehow still impossibly charming – even at her most self-sabotaging or self-destructive. There are many moments where being complicit in her bad choices could frustrate us, when instead they make us care for her more and further our desperate willing for things to work out for the best.
It’s that aspect that makes this film such a must-see, because it’s unafraid to show that “the best” outcome from this situation may not be the one that is traditionally expected and oft-enforced within 21st-century society. The character who allows this to happen is the titular role, the animated Ninjababy itself, the voice of Rakel’s unborn child who likes to remind her just how bad a person she is. It’s during these exchanges that the film is at both its funniest and most profound – the rapport between mother and unborn child is creative, crass and utterly hysterical. The way Ninjababy irreverently goads her, knowing exactly how to hit a nerve and annihilate her emotionally, is as fearless as it is groundbreaking.
Ninjababy – both the film and the eponymous character – is messy, uncouth, utterly charming and impossible not to love.