Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes, Not Rated
Written and Directed by Terra Renton (feature-documentary debut film)
The low-budget documentary, Generation Baby Buster (available today on VOD) begins with an intriguing premise: It aims to examine why more and more females in today's world are opting to not have children at all. We all are aware of the stigmas associated with the childless woman, and how women's rights over the past century have shattered traditional gender roles within the family unit. But almost instantly in this doc, the snide tone of the narration (supplied by writer/director/executive producer and first-time documentarian, Terra Renton) ruins any chance there was of having an adult conversation about the real worries that women - and men - face when confronting the responsibilities of parenthood.
Good documentaries present arguments backed up with factual examples and usually try to poke holes in the other side of the issue as well...bad ones usually come off as ignorantly one-sided. The approach and angle that this film takes doesn't open itself up for discussion, and with several references to drugs and alcohol in the first 15 minutes or so, it sounds more like whining...Basically, it would be a total drag to have a child, because it would cut into one's drinking and smoking. Renton comes across as someone not ready to be a parent, the proverbial "cool kid" who just is too selfish to consider the rewards that motherhood could possibly offer. The movie only briefly addresses the segment of the population that cannot have children, instead focusing on those that willingly choose not to.
Her soft argument mostly involves interviews with what appear to be friends and relatives in and around Renton's apartment, mixed in with interviews with several - much older - women authors. Much of Renton's research and almost all of the information presented in the film seems to come from the books that these women have written and a long stretch of the movie is just a regurgitation of information pulled directly from their collective works. It doesn't help her cause that much of the documentary is shot from weird low-angles and is poorly produced, as if the entire film was produced on an iPhone. And the "much older" is emphasized by the way, to point out another major flaw in the film's argument...if the whole child-less thing is current and specific to this generation (as the title of the film suggests), then how is it that many spokeswomen of the cause seem to come from those of past generations, namely those that can squarely be referred to as Baby Boomers?
Some of the information seems narrow-minded, some of it flat out untrue, all of it biased. It is not news, for example, that your life will change dramatically after becoming a parent. That children can destroy what you've come to know as your social life. That diapers need changing, and that kids can challenge even the strongest of relationships. But to show a few select celebrities - like Diane Sawyer - who have never had children and to equate that with their ability to achieve success? It seems inaccurate. As if a mother has never been able to break through the glass ceiling. For every Oprah, there is a Hillary Clinton, an Indra Nooyi (chairman of PepsiCo and mother of two), a Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and mother of two). Only including enough information to back your argument, and not painting a full picture, seems more like propaganda than informative journalism.
Making a film - any film - takes guts and determination, and this review is not being written without care or thought. Surely, an independent documentary such as this needs all the good word-of-mouth it can muster, and Renton should be applauded for her bravery in bringing this issue to the fore-front. But the truth is, Generation Baby Buster does very little, positive or negative, towards its purpose. There is no new information presented here that isn't already common sense and it felt more like a missed opportunity to delve a bit deeper into a topic that is surely relevant to millions. The fear of being a parent is real, and society is slowly opening itself up to the idea that it is OK if one chooses not to conform to the old-fashioned ideology of the family nucleus. But chances are - after watching this documentary - that your feelings on the subject are very unlikely to have changed one bit.
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