North Bend 2021 Review: ‘Ninjababy’ will charm the pants off you

There are unplanned pregnancies, and then there are unplanned pregnancies. Children turn your whole world upside down enough as it is, not having a plan only flips things further. Rakel (Kristine Thorp) is a twenty-something who is not living her best life. She’s unemployed, dropped out of school, and despite dreams of writing a graphic novel hasn’t made any effort to actually do that beyond occasionally drawing.

A few weeks after hooking up with Mos, an Aikido teacher, based solely on the fact that she thinks he smells good, she begins to feel unwell. A quick pregnancy test supplied by her roommate confirms it, but when she goes to the doctor she finds out that she’s not just pregnant, she’s six months pregnant.

Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

Kristine Thorp and Nader Khademi / Ninjababy

Ninjababy is charming as hell. Between the offbeat script and Kristine Thorp’s all performance as Rakel, some moments will make you laugh, and some moments will make you cry. Thorp’s portrayal of Rakel feels incredibly honest and, for lack of a better word, real. There are choices Rakel makes in the film that not everyone will agree with, but there’s never a choice that doesn’t feel like the one that this person would have made. Even when she’s manically bouncing back and forth on something, it feels sincere.

Does it make sense she would continue to hook up with the jerk –a man disdainfully referred to as ‘Dick Jesus’– who fathered her child? No, unless you’ve been young, in which case, yes, even when she made a connection with a sweet but shy Aikido teacher named Mos (Nader Khademi). Mos knows he isn’t the father, but he sticks around anyway because he’s drawn to Rakel regardless. Khademi has the most understated role in the film, but Mos’ shy nature is actually a great foil for the rest of the film.

Kristine Thorp / Ninjababy

Additionally, Rakel’s world is one that she sees through her drawings, with animated interludes occasionally taking over scenes or, more often, the mood of the scene being literally drawn over the frame, whether she’s feeling surprised or defeated or horny. As of that weren’t enough, Rakel also begins to speak to the foetus that is about to take charge of her life. An animated avatar of a naked baby in an eye mask begins to follow her around and speak about its potential life.

The result is a portrait of a real human being and an honest portrayal of what it must be like to be pregnant when you don’t want to be. That conflict between wanting to care for your children and not wanting your life disrupted is real.

The comparison here to Juno is an easy one to make: both feature a young woman going through a pregnancy with varying levels of support, and both are incredibly twee and charming. Don’t let that stop you from seeing Ninjababy, though, as it is most decidedly not just another Juno. Instead, it has a heart all of its own, one that can’t help but affect you with its deceptively simple charms.

Ninjababy is playing for US audiences as part of North Bend Film Festival through July 18th. It will be released in Canada this fall by Mongrel Media


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