Director Thomas Balmès’s spare, occasionally stirring documentary toddles to Namibia, Mongolia, the US, and Japan to capture a year in the life of four infants. The San Francisco family comes off at once as a gross cliché of Western privilege, complete with roof-deck Jacuzzi and baby yoga.
Such an agenda-laden example, however, leads one to wonder whether the other cultures’ depictions also favor the extreme. And the purely observational style dangles many questions.
Where are the Namibian men? Why is the Mongolian tot wandering alone without pants through the legs of livestock? (The irony here is that animals often steal the show.) The editing, too, confuses and manipulates — is the missing Mongol mom simply beyond the frame? Cuts from rich nation (birthday cake) to poor (tub of viscera) are predictably pointed but not always thematically coherent. Still, the film stops short of it’s-a-small-world platitudes to elicit awe — and awwws.