I admit that I watched this movie because of Essie Davis: our very own Miss Fisher. And I found her performance quite memorable in The Girl with a Pearl Earring.
In The Babadook, she is unrecognizable as Amelia, a frazzled, soft-spoken and accommodating single mom. Amelia works part-time at an old folks’ home while raising her six-year-old son, Sam (played by Noah Wiseman). She was widowed on the same night Sam was born. And Sam has major behavioral issues.
The first half of the movie is from Amelia’s point of view. She is unhappy and exhausted, mentally and physically. One night, Sam hands her a children’s book called Mister Babadook. It tells of a monster that is impossible to get rid of. The book further agitates Sam who already has a violent streak. Amelia is forced to take him out of school. Finally, at a birthday party for Amelia’s niece, Sam injures his cousin, further isolating mother and son from everyone. Depressed and completely cut off from everyone, Amelia begins her descent into madness.
This is a movie about dealing with grief – with a supernatural twist. It is about a mother and son trying to connect with each other and overcome paralyzing fear and depression. The movie is not crowded with characters and the bulk of the action takes place inside their old, neglected house that is reminiscent of a stage set. Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are both superb (an adjective I do not use lightly). They are in every scene and keep us hooked. There is so much love between them, so much tenderness, that despite the madness and violence, we want to stick with them to the end.