Festival Review: Gayby Baby (2015)

Gayby Baby

A neatly observed, fly-on-the-wall documentary on gay parents, Maya Newell’s Gayby Baby adds fuel to the fire of Australia’s hottest topic.

Rainbow Warriors

by Mark Wilshin

Gayby Baby

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Raised herself by two mothers, director Maya Newell brings the hot topic (in Australia) of gay parenting, where the issue of same-sex marriage still rages in the corridors of Capital Hill in Canberra to the silver screen. And following the lives of four pre-teens raised by gay parents – Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham – Gayby Baby is a portrait of all families everywhere, as Ebony prepares for a singing audition at stage school, Gus develops a dangerous passion for wrestling with his younger sister, adopted Graham learns to overcome the learning disabilities caused by his birth parents’ neglect or as articulate Matt reconciles his mother’s Christian faith with his own burgeoning disbelief in God. But while these gay-parented families are more or less indistinguishable from straight ones, there’s also a seam of gay-related issues running through them, as Gus experiments with lipstick and develops a passion for wrestling, exploring the notion of manliness, as Ebony questions acceptance at high school, as Matt refuses to believe in a Bible that disapproves of his parents, or as Graham’s two dads make the move to Fiji and remind their sons that maybe not everyone needs to know about the nature of their relationship. A schismatic framework, cycling through each family by turn and revealing two narrative strands for each, as well as a rather uninspired ending of three of the families attending Mardi Gras gay pride lends a disappointing simplicity to Gayby Baby, which isn’t powerful enough to further the pro-marriage cause. And while the choice to focus on 12-year-old children provides an innocent insightfulness into same-sex parents, older adolescents rebelling against their parents might have offered a more interesting, conflicted view on the difficulties of gay parenting. Nevertheless, as a portrait of the nuances of family life with two mums or two dads, Maya Newell’s Gayby Baby is a delicate and thought-provoking documentary on the caring, courage and love of all families everywhere.

Gayby Baby is now showing at the London Film Festival

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