Babysitter: Monia Chokri’s Midnight Movie about Toxic Masculinity (Sundance Fest 2022; Women in Film)

‘Babysitter’: Comedy to Tackle Toxic Masculinity

Monia Chokri’s Midnight entry pivots from a sexist prank on a female news reporter on live TV to awakening of conscience by a man who may — or may not — come to grips with his own misogyny.

Canadian director Monia Chokri’s dark comedy Babysitter begins with a young man playing a misogynistic prank on a live TV reporter before putting systemic sexism and socially-acceptable behavior between men and women in the cinematic spotlight.

The film follows Cedric, a sexist man fired from his job after drunkenly kissing a female reporter on live TV, who faces a reckoning in his personal and professional life. Adapted from Catherine Leger’s stage play of the same name, the French-language film, which is headed to Sundance Midnight sidebar, foreshadows the #MeToo movement while also commenting on the predictable backlash.

“Some people say it feels like we can’t do anything now, we can’t say anything. But I say at one point in history a woman couldn’t walk in the street without being assaulted, and now it’s different,” the director says.

In Babysitter, Cedric, played by Patrick Hivon, initially doesn’t accept that harassing a female TV reporter is wrong, before his point of view radically shifts. “He’s very naive. He says, ‘I love you’ and kisses someone. He doesn’t see it as an act of aggression, an assault on someone, until people around him say it is,” Chokri explains. That includes Nadine, his unimpressed girlfriend played by Chokri, who is not convinced by Cedric’s apparent change of heart, and Jean-Michel, his brother who works with Cedric on a book that promises to be an apology for his misogyny.

“I like comedy because it’s a good way to talk about difficult subjects, as laughing helps people open up and reflect,” she says of her indie, directed from playwright Leger’s screenplay.

The film’s eponymous character Amy, a mysterious young babysitter played by Nadia Tereszkiewicz, comments on the roles and rights of women.

The disruption of Amy sees Cedric and Jean-Michel face up to their latent sexism. “The fact that the babysitter comes from nowhere, she’s a stranger in a fantasy land and hypnotizes people gave me more opportunities,” Chokri observes.

A veteran stage actress, Chokri can be seen in Xavier Dolan’s Les Amours Imaginaires and Laurence Anyways, as well as Robin Aubert’s Les Affames.

Babysitter is her second feature behind the camera as a director. Her first, A Brother’s Love, earned the Coup de Coeur from the Un Certain Regard jury at the 2019 Cannes Film Fest.

See an exclusive clip from Babysitter below.

Though Chokri shot Babysitter just before the pandemic shuttered film and TV production in early 2020, the Quebec director will be unable to screen her movie in physical theater at Sundance as that festival has been sent online by the omicron surge.

“I was sad to hear we couldn’t make it to Sundance, but I’m okay to show the movie online. I’m not the only one. I can’t do anything about that, except to pray that people are going to like my movie even if it won’t be in a theater,” she says.