Chilean writer-director Sebastián Silva, who came to prominence with The Maid and Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, has created an intriguing addition to his canon in the form of Nasty Baby, detailing the incidents leading up to an unexpected action that the protagonist, Freddy (played by Silva himself), is forced to take due to morally skewing circumstances.
As yet another Brooklyn artist living and working in his apartment, Freddy pitches a gallery curator the concept of a show called “Nasty Baby,” in which he will portray what he sees as the most disgusting phase of life and version of himself–the baby incarnation. Part photo display, part performance art piece, Freddy explains that the idea for the exhibition came to him from months of trying to get his best friend, Polly (Kristen Wiig), pregnant so that he and his partner, Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), can enjoy the benefits of raising a child in conjunction with her. Freddy spews the usual line about the selfishness of wanting to have a baby to reproduce a carbon copy of yourself, even though there are countless adoptable children already out there in the world. The curator accepts his proposal, allowing Freddy further time to work on it with his assistant, Wendy (Alia Shawkat, who also produced the film).
In the meantime, an ominous and annoying “neighbor”/squatter who calls himself The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey) and frequently wakes Freddy and Mo up by wielding a leaf blower on their block before 8 a.m. has been more present on their street than usual. Even Polly becomes the subject of his torment after obliging him in buying some of his “stoop sale” items–a furry lamp specifically–only to be at the mercy of his anger when he finds out she threw it back out on the street. His mild assault on her prompts Freddy, his (real life) brother, Chino (Agustín Silva), Polly and Wendy to go to the house The Bishop is squatting in with his drug-addled girlfriend (Constance Shulman, of Orange is the New Black and Patty Mayonnaise fame) and throw a stink bomb into it. The Bishop, knowing full well the culprit behind the act, retaliates by leaving his own shit on their doorstep after Mo and Freddy have returned from a trip to Mo’s parents’ house with Polly–incidentally a time during which Mo finally relents to giving Polly some of his “specimen.”
With the war being waged between The Bishop and Freddy escalated, it comes as particularly bad timing when Freddy’s final product for the art piece he promised to the curator is received with deaf ears and blind eyes. The Bishop’s antagonistic goading of Freddy upon his return home that day–shouting such slurs as, “Hey dick sucker!”–proves the final straw, and leads to a dramatic final conclusion that you never see coming.
The bizarre structure and narrative of Nasty Baby is both its blessing and its curse. While its fresh approach to gay relationships and its ultimate statement on how people can push us to be capable of anything make the film worth watching, there is something of an almost throwaway quality to it in comparison to Silva’s other work.