Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012 SFF Review: Not Suitable For Children (Peter Templeman, 2012)

Not Suitable for Children was the film selected to open the 2012 Sydney Film Festival. It has a scheduled Australian release on July 5 through Icon Entertainment. It is an Australian romantic comedy focusing on Jonah (Ryan Kwanten), a freewheeling young guy who sets out to ensure he fathers a child before he becomes infertile, having been diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is the directorial debut of Peter Templeman (Oscar nominated for his short film, The Saviour, in 2007) and written by Michael Lucas.

Templeman effectively uses the recognisable Inner West and Sydney City locations - Jonah's house, which he shares with his housemates, Stevie (Sarah Snook) and Gus (Ryan Corr), is a great centrepiece to both convey the party-heavy lives of these young people (which many Sydney-siders will relate to, especially if you have partied in this actual house), and set the more adult discussions that take place between the friends. The script, though lacking the maturity to take some of the issues further (notably the fact that cancer can be debilitating, and not just infertility) rings true in creating a believable world. Still young, and faced with years of life, the shock of discovering that a life you never believed you even desired cannot exist, would prompt someone to make such rash and under thought decisions. But was it relayed in enough depth here?

Not Suitable For Children is thin on character development with their motivations often switching on a dime and proving unconvincing. Having Jonah have watery eyes when around his sister's children, and stop and stare at some youngsters in a park is not enough. Where did this drive to be a father come from? Is he scared about being diagnosed with cancer? No, because he has been informed that the removal is not life threatening. He is scared because he will never be able to be a father, with his sperm samples failing to freeze effectively, but we never get the sense that he would be willing to give up everything to be the stay-at-home dad, despite desperately declaring that it is something he would love to do. Is he willing to have no romantic connection to the mother, yet still provide economic and paternal support to the young one? From what we have learnt about him, we know he won't commit to that. Why would he? He has his health, and plenty of opportunities to have a fulfilling life. The stakes don't seem high enough. 

The film is nicely shot by Lachlan Milne and looks impressively polished. Templeman, making his feature debut, certainly seems to have a great rapport with his cast. Kwanten, whom many will recognize from HBO’s True Blood, but has made a name for himself in Red Hill and Griff the Invisible since, has been better before and his range (wavering between naïve and aloof to frustrated and desperate) is not really tested here. We learn he is not too smart - a harmless loser - and though we don’t feel overly sympathetic for him, he is not an unlikeable guy at all. Though Kwanten is significantly older than the character he is playing, it really doesn’t look that way.

The chemistry between Kwanten and Snook was good and their often-awkward scenes were given a sense of believability as a result. Stevie emerges as his closest confidant in his quest, declaring that an arranged pregnancy with someone he doesn't know, is his best option. An excellent Ryan Corr, the consistently tense and stressed-out party maestro and Jonah's best mate, provided the films biggest laughs. Bojana Novakovic (Burning Man) appears in a supporting role as Jonah’s most recent ex, and the first candidate he considers.

Overall, Not Suitable For Children is light and quite amusing. Though thin on laughs in the first half, they become much more consistent in the latter. It also has a strong soundtrack. The use of montage cleverly pushed the story along, allowing for plenty of awkward exchanges between Jonah and his housemates, who try and talk reason into the shell-shocked partier whose paternal instincts have kicked into serious overdrive. 

The film’s premise, though focusing on a man’s desperate attempts to father a child, might be misconceived when described as a man who ‘sets out to procreate as much as possible.’ That’s not what happens and I was pleasantly surprised that the film was not about mistaking copious amounts of sex with the creation of life, but actually discovering the commitment required to be a father and learning to be responsible for others. Though its predictability - and resemblance to another film currently out in cinemas - doesn't help its case, this is still somewhat unique and raunchy adult comedy and provides a consistent offering of laughs. I look forward to seeing what Templeman and the cast come up with next.

My Rating: ★★★ 


  1. It sounds like a very entertaining movie, if it will ever come to UK or on DVD I will try to see it! Great review, seemed to be a good opening to the festival, have fun! I can't wait to read what you thought of On The Road!

    1. Thanks Diana. I think you might enjoy it. I am watching On the Road tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that review :-)

  2. You would think that as a writer yourself, you would at least gotten the screenwriters name right

    1. Thank you for picking that up. It is an unforgivable error. Apologies to Michael Lucas.