The best Irish feature of 2013 wasn’t about the traumatic legacy of the religious warfare, or working-class Dublin musicians, or spooky local folktales. No, according to the judges at Dublin Film Festival, the best Irish feature of 2013 was about the struggles of a family of New York Latinos. Yeah, random. But as director Macdara Vallely explained, the film was inspired by an incident he witnessed on a train in the Bronx after moving to New York back in 2000, and the memory apparently left such a deep impression on the young director that several years later, he was moved to flesh out the incident in a screenplay.
The result is Babygirl, an emotional family drama about a teenaged girl named Lena who tires of watching her mother shack up with a series of deadbeat men. When her mom’s latest lover (played by Flaco Navaja) starts sending Lena creeper vibes, our adolescent heroine decides to take the bait in an effort to show her mother her man’s true character. To tell this difficult story, Vallely employs a classic, gritty New York aesthetic, with grainy film stock and handheld camerawork that brings an almost documentary feel to the piece. What most stands out about Babygirl, however, is the outstanding performance by teenage actress Yainis Ynoa, in what was her first-ever role in film or television.
Indeed, Ynoa’s performance is what most impressed critics and judges throughout its 2013 festival run, which took Babygirl from Tribeca to Rome and of course to Vallely’s native Ireland. Now, for those of you who weren’t jetsetting through the festival circuit in 2013, Babygirl is available for your viewing pleasure on several digital platforms for just a few bucks. A small price to pay for the heart and soul of Vallely, Ynoa, Navaja, and everyone else who left it all on the set for this low-budget indie gem.