In “Babes,” Parenthood and Pregnancy Are No Easy Trip


Parenthood is a milestone that the movies have covered from a variety of angles: the body horror of pregnancy, the lifelong love and commitment that can come along with having a child, and even how parents fail their children and vice-versa. However, Pamela Adlon’s Babes takes a refreshing and altogether different approach by not being afraid to lean into and laugh at the absurdity and humor that comes with bringing a new life into the world.

In Babes, we meet Eden (Ilana Glazer) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau), two best friends at seemingly different points in their lives. Dawn is a relatively new mother of two and Eden is single, childless, and untethered. Their friendship, which has lasted decades, hangs on despite Dawn’s increasingly demanding family life. Everything changes when Eden finds herself pregnant and joins Dawn in motherhood. The result is a journey that isn’t afraid to shy away from the physical or emotional challenges of parenthood and pregnancy.

What makes Babes so funny, refreshing, and engaging is its fearless depiction of pregnancy and motherhood. Some moments feel very real and honest, even if they aren’t pretty or saddled with the positive glow that typically surrounds this topic. Eden’s journey is compelling, mainly because this depiction of pregnancy doesn’t shy away from the surreal process of growing another person inside you – from sequences early on in Eden’s pregnancy, where her hormonal lust for the most banal things (like a superhero mascot on a bottle of cleaning product) earns laughs to a terrifying and funny sequence later on in the pregnancy when Eden has to navigate her fear of needles before getting a prenatal test.

Similarly, the movie doesn’t back away from the emotional terrain of bearing or raising children, either. For Dawn, her second round of motherhood is taxing with problems with her mill production to feeling burnt out and exhausted by the presence of a new child. Babes leans into and compassionately depicts the complicated emotional journey new parents embark on.

A discussion between Dawn and her husband, Marty (Hasan Minhaj), where the two air out their complaints and complicated feelings about being parents feels real and empathetic – how can you not get burnt out when you’re trying to be your own person and care for new ones too? It’s a conversation that in a lesser movie could have painted as unsympathetic, but Babes understands that these feelings are common, and the characters unpacking them deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion.

Eden’s emotional journey is treated just as compassionately. Eden has a complicated relationship with her birth family, specifically her father, Bernie (Oliver Platt), whose spotty presence in her life, due to his agoraphobia and intense anxiety, strains their relationship. His character is handled gently, and it’s an interesting way to underscore the importance of the friendship at the center of the film. Dawn and Eden’s relationship becomes Eden’s only source of support during this crucial time in her life, a fact that puts a strain on the pair as Eden gets further along in her pregnancy and Dawn struggles to navigate the never-ending labor of parenthood and parenting Eden, in a way.

Adlon and company find a way to balance this potent emotional core with great humor and gross-out sequences that make the film an enjoyable, balanced watch. For every friendship-affirming sequence, it feels like there’s at least one stream of bodily fluid running through a scene to help break the tension. It’s a depiction of pregnancy and parenthood that feels poignant and fearless – a fact I’m sure new parents everywhere will appreciate.

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