FILM REVIEW: Babes’ Not Alone 亮亮與噴子3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Today is Liang’s birthday. As she looks forwards to her date tonight, her mother demands that she babysits her brother’s newborn baby, Little Pen. Liang is very upset with the situation and decides to come up with a plan.
Director: Lee Yi-Shan
Cast: Angel Lee, Chen Yan-Si, Liu Yin-Shang, Wu Hong-Xiu
Language: Mandarin, Taiwanese
Review by Jean Wong
Human empathy plays into this short film, where we’re introduced to Liang’s (Angel Lee) daily routine, most of which revolves around taking care of her nephew. Babes’ Not Alone (2016) starts out light-hearted, with Liang referring to him casually in a loving tone. The film, however, is quick to unravel the misconception that our protagonist has a carefree life, and begins to take on a serious note.
Liang’s cheerful mood is shown to slowly turn sour as the film progresses. Her mother, unwilling to take care of Little Pen, leaves him in the care of Liang. Liang repeatedly attempts to leave Pen under someone else’s care, though she changes her mind every time she hears him cry. This sequence repeats often throughout the film, as we journey with Liang throughout the city in search of her brother, Pen’s father. As she does so, she faces a lot of attitude from others who assume and look down on her for being a single mother. Babes’ Not Alone evokes our empathy for Liang in this manner — she is constantly sacrificing her own wants in order to prioritise Pen, despite being in this position by circumstance and not by choice.
By doing so, the film manages to subvert the stereotypical idea of a family. Instead of shirking from her responsibilities, Liang bravely faces societal judgement for having a child that was not even hers. She too, realises that the people who love and care about her may not necessarily be related to her by blood. The choice to allow us access to Liang’s thoughts through her actions and expressions rather than her words actually speaks volumes about her character. Lee manages to capture the duality of Liang’s frustrations and motherly affections in this unconventional role.
It is also noteworthy that she shares the same birthday as Mazu 媽祖, the goddess of the sea. Her name in Chinese is written with the character for ‘mother’, and is literally translated to maternal ancestor. This interesting nuance is rather fitting towards Liang’s character, and reflects the filmmaker’s detail in crafting her. Babes’ Not Alone is certainly a short film that redefines the meaning of family and draws out human empathy while providing a subtle commentary on single mothers in society.
About Kaohsiung Shorts
高雄拍 (Kaohsiung Shorts) aims to make Kaohsiung the Taiwanese short film base, to discover and showcase new short films that break the norms, boundaries and stereotypes through the use of media. Started in 2012 by the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Kaohsiung Shorts is a short film grant that aims to encourage film talents to be based in Kaohsiung and be inspired by the city. Films created under this programme will be having their Taiwan premiere during the Kaohsiung International Film Festival. Since 2015, short films created under the Kaohsiung Shorts have been showcased in other countries such as Hong Kong, France, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.