Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review: Babysitter ★★

It is likely that you will need a lie down in a quiet room after watching Monia Chokri’s Babysitter, a madcap surrealist farce that moves at 100 mph with an exhaustingly hectic energy. This satire utilises a vivid colour palette and rapidly-paced, campy performances, as it satirises the world of sexual repression and misogyny, injecting these with slapstick comedy.

Adapted from screenwriter Catherine Léger’s own play, Babysitter centres upon new father, the middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) who loses his job after a moment of drunken sexual harassment goes viral. His long-suffering girlfriend Nadine (director Monia Chokri) exhausted from parenting seeks some R&R whilst Cédric and his sensitive journo brother Michel (Steve Laplante) attempt to write a memoir apologising for their years of misogyny. The sudden arrival of seductive dream babysitter Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) pushes all three face-up to their own sexual respective issues.

Opening depicting Cédric and his equally misogynistic work colleagues on a boozy trip to the boxing, Chokri presents rapid fire cuts and extreme close-ups of body parts from mouths to breasts and breakneck dialogue as the Canadians objectify two girls in front of them. The loud chauvinistic attitude of the Montreal natives is given a run for its money from the girls – but this is soon overshadowed by Cédric inadvertently planting an unwanted kiss on the cheek of a filming television reporter prompting the footage to go viral. Babysitter’s depiction of online mob mentality soon follows with Cédric attempting to salvage his career and marriage amidst the ever burgeoning scandal.

Babysitter grows increasingly surreal, yet drops issues of male privilege and women’s safety as a result of it into the mix. Meanwhile Nadine’s endless motherly duties have left her feeling drained – her sense of sexuality faded due to her new role. In this world, cinematographer Josée Deshaies captures everything with a soft focus – crafting a campy Stepford Wives aesthetic of kitsch domesticity and exploring a sense of the pop art flavoured world crafted by Chokri and Colombe Raby’s production design.

The arrival of Amy prompts our three hapless protagonists on their own respective journeys. Cédric grows increasingly obsessed with his quest for redemption (crafting a shrine to all the women he needs to apologise to), whilst the façade of Michel’s wokeness begins to fade as he becomes increasingly infatuated by Amy. With the help of Amy, Nadine discovers a newfound sexual side – brimming with the fire that left her after becoming a mother. Babysitter plays into the campiness to full effect with Amy even donning a French maid’s outfit in the film’s latter act.

Babysitter’s take on toxic masculinity and misogyny never quite feel as focussed as they should be – perhaps due to its high camp tone – and the predominance of Michel and Cédric in the narrative. It’s a challenge to see where Babysitter is going as it heads towards its conclusion, with some moments of horror injected (presumably why it has made the Midnight programme at Sundance) – but these do not sit tonally with first two acts of the feature.

Aesthetically colourful and fast-paced, Babysitter‘s satirical slant on toxic masculinity does not quite pack the punch it should. The rapid-fire nature of the dialogue and editing quickly becomes tiring and a little too manic to digest.

Babysitter plays as part of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Find out more details here.