Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis to topline ‘Babyteeth’, Shannon Murphy’s feature debut

Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis.

Rita Kalnejais has adapted her successful Belvoir Street Theatre play Babyteeth for screen, with Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis attached to lead the cast of the comedy which follows a couple who discover their ill teenage daughter has fallen in love with a drug dealer.

Babyteeth will mark Shannon Murphy’s feature directorial debut after having shot television drama such as Offspring, Love Child and Sisters her work on the latter has her up for an Australian Directors’ Guild Award on Friday evening. It will be produced by Alex White and EP’d by Jan Chapman, and will be the first feature for White’s Whitefalk Films following the festival success of short films Trespass and Florence Has Left the Building.

Said to be about “letting go and finding grace in the glorious chaos of life”, Babyteeth follows Henry (Mendelsohn) and Anna (Davis) who realise their seriously ill teenage daughter Milla has fallen madly in love with a drug dealer, Moses. This romance is Milla’s protective parents’ worst nightmare – but Milla doesn’t want to play it safe anymore. Things get messy and morals go out the window, as the lives of those around the family – their disarmingly honest pregnant neighbour, a brilliantly flawed music teacher, a child violin prodigy and Moses’ family – become intertwined.

“I first saw Rita Kalnejais’ humorous and profoundly moving play Babyteeth at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre in 2012 with executive producer Jan Chapman,” said White.

“Rita’s exquisitely delicate examination of the life of a teenage girl and the people who constellate her was a life-affirming experience. It felt like the perfect work to be translated to screen.”

Chapman said: “I’m delighted to be working with such a strong and gifted female team in producer, Alex White and director Shannon Murphy interpreting Rita Kalnejais’ vivid, insightful and funny screenplay about how precious life is.”

Babyteeth is slated to shoot towards the end of this year. Screen Australia has provided major production investment in association with Create NSW, and the film was financed with the support of support of, Whitefalk Films, Jan Chapman Films and Spectrum Films.

Australian distribution will be handled by eOne and international sales by Celluloid Dreams.