Rated 3.0

Say what you will about Thomas Balmès’ new documentary, but you can’t accuse it of false advertising. Look at How Cute might also have worked as a title, but the director obviously wants some points for nonchalance. His film follows four babies through their first year of life: Bayar, in Mongolia; Mari, in Tokyo; Ponijao, in Namibia; and Hattie, in San Francisco, the daughter of Bay Area filmmaker Frazer Bradshaw, who contributed cinematography here. Babies has no narration and no real scenes per se, although overheard parental conversations occasionally progress toward dialogue, and the infants’ naked needs do assume the weight of dramatic objectives. Sometimes the editing emphasizes parallel actions—first steps, say, or groping interactions with family pets—but just as often, the shots and sequences seem to come and go as they please, like the emphatically pleasant incidental music. The idea is just to hang around and watch, letting the subjects speak (or gurgle or bawl or coo) for themselves. It’s really just an array of home movies, but with production values. How much you like it will depend entirely on your tolerance for the ingratiating preciousness of other people’s kids.