Berlinale 2021: Ninjababy

Rakel is a young woman with her whole life ahead of her: astronaut, forest ranger, comic book writer. She’s not sure which path to follow but enjoys contemplating her options. One thing that’s definitely not on her list: motherhood. Which makes her pregnancy highly inconvenient. Worse still, the abortion clinic won’t perform the procedure because it turns out Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) isn’t just pregnant, she’s 6 months pregnant, and this thing is really happening, whether she likes it or not.

Ninjababy is the fetus comic book character she starts drawing in order to sort out her feelings. Pretty soon Ninjababy is off the pages and interrupting her real life with his own thoughts, needs, complaints, and suggestions. Director Yngvild Sve Flikke brings the character to life with selective animation, and we’re treated to the unusual screen representation of a young woman speaking directly to the baby she doesn’t want. The baby’s daddy, a booty call situation Rakel calls Dick Jesus (Arthur Berning) isn’t exactly an ideal candidate for fatherhood either, and Ninjababy (voiced by Herman Tømmeraas) objects pretty heartily.

Rakel is not your typical protagonist. She’s rough around the edges, reckless and youthfully arrogant. She doesn’t have it together, and not in a cutesy movie way, in a very real, slovenly, rudderless, impoverished way. Ignorant of her pregnancy, she’s been drunk, stoned, and slutty. Yet Flikke manages to balance her wildness with warmth and humour, resulting in perhaps not the most sympathetic of characters, but a realistic and resilient one, grounded in tough choices and a growing attachment.

Ninjababy has some laugh out loud moments and some truly heartbreaking ones. It’s an honest look at unwanted pregnancy, told through the young mother’s perspective as well as the unborn fetus’s, who will not be ignored. Ninjababy is a cool and almost magical take on the situation, but the real treasure is that the film isn’t afraid to put Rakel first, to let her really explore her own wants, needs, and ambitions, and to choose her path accordingly. Thorp is up to the task, showing flexibility and range as she transitions from earnest to sardonic, even skirting among emotional landmines with dexterity. Ninjababy isn’t breaking new ground thematically but its tone and execution are refreshing and unique and exciting to watch.

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