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Breastmilk (2014)

Pregnant bodies are easier for society to accommodate. What follows birth is a different, messier story. Through new and honest ways, with a wide range of frank, difficult, revealing ... See full summary »

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Pregnant bodies are easier for society to accommodate. What follows birth is a different, messier story. Through new and honest ways, with a wide range of frank, difficult, revealing interviews, BREAST MILK follows the lives of breastfeeding women and addresses the many questions around breast milk. Written by Anonymous

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7 May 2014 (USA)  »

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Breast Milk  »

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A documentary burdened by the thinness of its subject matter rather than its approach
12 August 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Dana Ben-Ari's Breastmilk plays like the most recent effort in the mumblecore subgenre of film, focusing on long, intimate conversations with a diverse group of people, predominately women, but often times their significant others, and frequent uses of an amateur approach to show the film's low budget. This aesthetic won't be too burdensome for most people, but the effect leaves me personally wishing I had watched a film about the issues of breastfeeding children done with a realistic, fictional narrative by the likes of somebody like Joe Swanberg or the brothers Duplass.

The problem with a documentary about breastfeeding is the topic is too thin to adequately sustain a ninety-one minute film, especially when you almost completely ignore the big social issue at hand here, which is should breastfeeding be allowed in public? Week after week, I see the Breastmilk Facebook page light up with links to articles concerning women who have been kicked out of public places because they were publicly breastfeeding; did director Dana Ben-Ari forget to include a segment on that and thought linking numerous different articles on Facebook would make up for it? It's bizarre to see a film about breastfeeding spend five minutes talking about the pornographic fetish of lactation and include multiple montages of breastmilk being squirted out of a woman's nipple, but completely ignore the core issue that has been plaguing this method of nursing a baby for decades now and seriously needs some sort of a voice.

Breastmilk follows numerous different couples, specifically the female in the relationship, and their issues, views, and methods on breastfeeding and the often challenging but rewarding process that it is. It weaves in and out between couples, and even gets some lactation doctors and consultants to chime in on their views. Often times, the film plays like a talky, contemplative film of the mumblecore subgenre discussing not only breastfeeding but gender roles and the woman's essential role in bringing up a child. A health worker named Patrece Griffith-Murray even brings up a fantastic point in the early part of the film, stating, "every woman has a reason why they breastfeed," and Ben-Ari succeeds by not making the film statistical and overly-analytical, but personal and using specific case examples.

The two most dominant women in my life - my mother and my seventy-five-year-old grandmother, whom I call every day - both bottle-fed their children. At the time I was born, my mother was working grueling, twelve-hour days in the trauma unit of Loyola Hospital, with little time to get a break or have lunch, let alone pump her breasts and assure the milk got to me via my father. Not to mention, my mother was diagnosed with toxemia, and also is known to be a very anxious soul, which disrupts the process of breastfeeding. The same reason, combined with added personal stress, was the same reason my grandmother didn't breastfeed her three children either. Breastmilk thankfully recognizes the issue that breastfeeding is a very challenging and trying thing, which not every woman can handle or can do as easy as others. As trivial of a comment as this may seem, it does a great job of not belittling those who raised their children on something like Oberweis milk (speaking now).

But at the end of it all, the biggest problem with Breastmilk is it becomes too long-winded for its own good; this is an HBO short documentary with a maximum running length of fifty minutes that was stretched out to a tiresome and dreary ninety-one minutes. On top of that, the film neglects the biggest point about its topic and has its structural process become grating because of the lack of new or enlightening information on its subject. Still, however, the things Breastmilk does correctly, from its personal approach to its lack of statistical bombardment and its respect for women who go the bottle-feeding route, make it the marginally enjoyable film that it is.

Directed by: Dana Ben-Ari.


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