Sydney Film Festival have ensured the 2012 festival starts with a bang by programming the delightful, heartfelt and decidedly Australian comedy Not Suitable for Children for the Opening Night Gala. Whilst the film isn’t going to reach the heights of other Australian comedy classics, there’s something to be said for a film a film that manages to tick all the simple boxes; great acting, witty script, a fine balance of comedy and drama, with characters and themes that are more complex than the surface reveals.
If Australian film has managed to find its distinctive voice against the international film market, it’s surely in its gritty crime dramas or its comedies that tell great, emotionally complex and character driven stories whilst maintaining a natural, unforced Australian humour. Obviously Not Suitable for Children falls into the latter category. And Ryan Kwanten proves the perfect leading man who delivers an impressive performance nailing the subtleties of comedy and drama.
Kwanten carries the film as Jonah, a young, easy going, attractive (like he could play anything else but), party goer in Sydney’s Inner West. After discovering a lump, Jonah finds out he has testicular cancer, which luckily can be easily cured but will leave him infertile. Much to the dismay of his housemates Gus (a hysterical Ryan Corr) and Stevie (Sarah Snook), Jonah begins a frantic search before the procedure to find someone to have a baby with before it’s too late. Cue montage. A potentially absurd storyline is dealt with maturely and with great poignancy by screenwriter Michael Lucas, which unravels many issues though a uniquely Australian lens surrounding being young, parenting, masculinity and purpose.
Whilst Kwanten is wonderful as the films lead, as the film goes on, Sarah Snook starts to steal the film as the housemate who becomes as troubled and confused by Jonah’s ordeal as he is. Snook is certainly one to look out for on our screens as her dynamic performance will likely be the film’s most lingering presence.
It seems appropriate that the film premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, as it is a veritable who’s who of Sydney actors walking about a where’s where of Sydney locations. Audiences will play spotto with locations around Newtown, Stanmore, and Oxford Street, and questions like “Is that the guy from the noodle ad?”, and maybe even an acquaintance overacting in the background of a party. It’s both refreshing and distracting to see Sydney used so vividly in a film.
The film benefits greatly from taking characters and stories down paths you don’t expect, but unfortunately this is also the films biggest flaw. A few of them might be so unexpected because they’re not entirely believable. For example, Jonah’s discovery of his pending infertility changes in from a party goer to a wannabe Dad without a moment’s hesitation. Of course, that’s the whole point, but there’s still an air of inauthenticity about it and other plot developments that really prevents the film from sticking its landing.
This aside, expect enthusiastic applause come Opening Night for a film that has heart and laughs in equal measure.
Not Suitable For Children is screening at the Sydney Film Festival on June 6th and June 9th.
Click here to visit the SFF website for more details.
The film is released in Australian cinemas on June 28th