Ninjababy (4 stars)

Ninjababy

Superbly performed Norwegian comedy drama at the Edinburgh International Film Festival that takes an unflinching look at unwanted pregnancy

There's nothing more refreshing than a film that isn't afraid to tell it like it is, especially when the norm is to tiptoe around difficult issues or tie things up in a dishonest little bow. Norwegian comedy drama Ninjababy (Fallteknikk) takes sensitive subjects like abortion, infertility and lack of maternal inclination, introduces masses of irreverence, cheeky animated inserts and sometimes breathtaking frankness, and still manages to wring plenty of pathos from its heroine's predicament.

With her shit not so much together as all over her bedroom floor, Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is still trying to figure out who she wants to be when she discovers that she's heavily pregnant, and it's too late to have an abortion. Rakel has no desire to raise a child and is concerned that she may have unknowingly done the foetus harm due to her hedonistic exploits. A further complication is that she's on the verge of something romantic with sweet aikido instructor and tabletop wargame enthusiast Mos (Nader Khademi), who she has already drunkenly slept with but is not the father. In her confusion, Rakel is supported by an unflappable housemate Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson), while her half-sister Mie (Silya Nymoen), who has struggled to conceive, represents a possible way out.

Director Yngvild Sve Flikke (who collaborated on the screenplay with main scriptwriter Johan Fasting, and the film's animator Inga Sætre who created the original graphic novel) does a superb job of balancing the film's farcical and more true-to-life elements. There's tenderness in Kåre Vestrheim's comfort blanket-like score and in Thorp's nuanced and perversely endearing portrayal of a chaotic woman in a desperately conflicted emotional state, whose feckless and occasionally aggressively confrontational front masks genuine anxiety and guilt.

On the other end of the performance spectrum, and nearly as enjoyable, is Arthur Berning's broader portrayal of the baby's father, an almost mythical idiot known as 'Dick Jesus', who Rakel for some reason can't resist. And there's the tiniest touch of Prevenge to the 'ninjababy' of the title with an animated infant superhero who springs to life from one of Rakel's doodles to personify her nagging conscience and verbally spar with her prior to the birth. Thankfully, though, this film is much less murderous.

Ninjababy, Filmhouse, Friday 20 August, 1.15pm & Saturday 21 August, 10pm, £10 (£8); available to rent for £10 on Filmhouse At Home between Friday 20–Monday 23 August, 3pm, with a 72-hour watch window; selected release in cinemas and available on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 10 September.

Ninjababy

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • Norway
  • 1h 44min
  • Directed by: Yngvild Sve Flikke
  • Cast: Kristine Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi

When 23-year-old Rakel discovers she's pregnant, a ninja baby climbs out of her diary to tell her what a horrible person she is.