Not Suitable For Children

Review by Jane Freebury

Here’s a twist. It’s generally the girl rather than the guy who’s running out of time to become a parent. Not this time round in this great little romcom set in the inner burbs of Sydney, the city subtly evoked with a shot of an upriver bridge here and a train station there, and without a single beach in sight.

It’s hard to say what Jonah (Ryan Kwanten) does in life. As he says, no job history. Maybe he lives ‘hard-core’ but he looks like too much the softie for that. He’s a party animal and with his share house partner Gus (Ryan Corr) an entrepreneur of epic events. The third person in Jonah’s lovely big share terrace, with its lacework flourish and peeling paint, is Stevie (Sarah Snook), a sharp professional type with no illusions and a prestige car.

It’s a very big ask, but Jonah embarks on it anyway. He’s just heard that the treatment for his testicular cancer will render him infertile and that he’s one of the unlucky few whose sperm won’t survive cryopreservation. He wants to be a father? Yes, he does and must find someone to bear his child because time is running out. Problem is all his ex-girlfriends are in their 20s and not quite up for the challenge yet. So he tries to rustle up an older woman and propositions a gay couple too. ‘Do you want a baby with me?’ The puppy dog looks and gentle style may not be the biggest turn on.

It’s a great fun romp, deft and heartfelt, with a good soundtrack. Things proceed with zest and brio under the hand of director Peter Templeman, who co-wrote with Michael Lucas (writer for the TV series Offspring). Templeman, a first-time director who has won awards, and been Oscar nominated, for his short films, is one to follow.

Stevie and Jonah are the typical screwball romantic couple, different as chalk and cheese but meant for each other. Best friends who never dreamt of making love to each other. Until, well, it became a mutual arrangement.

Romantic comedies are always coming in from overseas, but the only local work of recent years that comes near this is Griff the Invisible, directed by Canberra-raised Leon Ford. Mind you, local filmmakers don’t go there that often. The local compendium of romcoms is very slim.
Where is our Four Weddings and a Funeral, our Bridget Jones’s Diary? Is it just not in our nature? At a recent local seminar on the fine art of romcom, someone said it required sophisticated screenwriting, and that romantic love wasn’t a topic we felt comfortable with on the big screen.

Even when we’re not in a romantic comedy kind of mood, we should be. To be ready for when a film like this comes along.
In a capsule: A great local romcom made with breezy brio, style and a heartfelt intelligence. Ryan Kwanten and Sarah Snook are great as the ‘chalk and cheese’ couple, and if we don’t make this kind of film often here, occasionally we do it damn well.

4 stars

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