Luci Thompson (Linda Hayden) is a teenager making a bad reputation for herself in her Northern English home town, but a tragedy strikes and her life is thrown into turmoil. When she returns home from school one afternoon, she discovers her mother (Diana Dors) has committed suicide in the bathtub because she couldn't face the cancer that was killing her. Now unwanted, Luci is kindly taken in by the only man her mother really loved, Dr Robert Quayle (Keith Barron), who has made a success of himself. Robert's wife Amy (Ann Lynn) and son Nick (Derek Lamden) do their best to welcome Luci, but she proves a disruptive influence...
Like an odd kitchen sink drama from the time they were beginning to go out of fashion, in the cinema at least Baby Love didn't really fit that template as it mainly took place in a fairly wealthy household, yet had that same glum atmosphere of damaging, unsatisfied relationships. It might have caused a stir when it was first released, but now it's almost completely forgotten, which might be a case of unjustified neglect, though actually the whole film is so joyless it doesn't exactly make for exciting viewing, though its depiction of teenage sexuality as something to be feared did render it something to linger in some memories.
The film was based on a novel by Tina Chad Christian, and adapted by the director Alastair Reid (who went on to extensive work in television), producer Michael Klinger (who cast Hayden in a couple of his Confessions movies the next decade) and producer Guido Coen (who worked mainly in borderline exploitation flicks). The story is not about how the Lolita-like Luci seduces the family, although for a while that's where it looks as if it's heading, as she remains virginal till the end no matter the designs the other characters may or may not have on her, the teenage son particularly frustrated by his mixed feelings to either protect her or exploit her combination of innocence and playful daring.
So neither is this a Candy-style comedy romp, as the film has an ambiguous attitude towards Luci, more than the potential dirty old man fantasy that it could have been, but does not entirely leave alone. There's no doubt she has been traumatised by finding her mother dead, but in case you thought Dors had a raw deal in turning up for the first two minutes and then kicking the bucket, she appears later on in Luci's hallucinations. She suffers nightmares which we are allowed to see, and the only thing to calm her down is the attentions of Amy who lies with her in bed at night to soothe her, but also leads to a lesbian attraction between them, all the more perverse when Amy is trying to play the surrogate mother figure for the little girl lost that Luci may or may not fulfil the role of.
Luci is a strange character, as one moment she is coming on to others, then pushing them away, as if acting like her own mother then rejecting her dubious values alternately. Are we supposed to sympathise with her? At one point the scene cuts to her wolfing down a cake to an image of a fat pig on a cinema screen, the same cinema where she allows some old pervert to grope her knee until the lovelorn but disgusted Nick drags her out of there (the narration on the film suggests we are supposed to find this amusing). But then at other times she's obviously lost and scared by her situation, and it's the way the film is so deeply conflicted about her that creates the tension. Unfortunately, overall this is a plodding experience that finally is confused about how to resolve its dlilemmas, with forced drama at its climax, yet its genuine strangeness and wariness of Luci's behaviour is not quite as lurid as you might expect, in spite of the teenage Hayden appearing nude; indeed, it is her performance that holds this together with some skill, not bad for portraying a character the film could not make up its mind about from one scene to another. Music by Max Harris.