Upon learning that they unknowingly slept with the same woman four years earlier, a middle-aged man and his twenty-something son realize that either one could be the biological father of her adorable daughter in the infectiously charming indie Don't Worry Baby.
Deftly navigating tonally challenging terrain in his feature filmmaking debut, writer/director Julian Branciforte takes what in lesser hands could've easily turned into a gimmicky, contrived, creepy, or sudsy TV movie of the week and instead zeroes in on the naturally humanistic character-driven dramedy at the heart of the storyline.
Creatures of habit that inhabit the same restaurants and bars in the New York City neighborhood terrain in which aspiring photographer Robert Lang (John Magaro) and his serial adulterer father Harry (Christopher McDonald) live and work, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that the two would've crossed the same romantic paths once upon a time.
And the end result is a genuinely original twist on cinema's age-old "boy meets girl" paradigm that manages to both generate empathy for its main ensemble (while refreshingly never "slut-shaming" the young woman at the heart of the love triangle played by the affable Dreama Walker) and stay surprisingly plausible throughout.
Admittedly, it does get a bit bogged down at times by an overreliance on romantic comedy stock characters and situations like our protagonist's sexually voracious roommate who takes up way too much valuable screen time that should've been dedicated to others with more fascinating story arcs.
Nonetheless, Baby keeps us invested by its gender-reversal power dynamics as well as its talented ensemble cast including under-utilized MVPs Talia Balsam (who creates an admirably three dimensional individual out of an underwritten role) and Tom Lipinski as the aforementioned roommate.
Augmented even more by the wildly charismatic John Magaro who matches the fast-paced rhythms of Branciforte's energetic script word-for-word, the passionate lead commands every scene he's in the same way he did opposite the late great James Gandolfini in David Chase's Not Fade Away.
An impressive feature length debut for the short film veteran that aims to be as catchy as a Beach Boys song, while the female characters are a bit shortchanged in the male-centric narrative, Don't Worry's heart is always in the right place.
Sure to pick up momentum during its current film festival run where it's bound to leave a lasting impression and get viewers talking, here's hoping that Branciforte's clever and sincere spin on contemporary romantic dramedy will (much like its father/son duo) cross your path soon to stay.
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