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Published February 9, 2013

Not Suitable For Children begins like an episode of Skins. Housemates Stevie, Gus and Jonah have hatched a plan: throw awesome house parties, collect money from guests, and profit. Life is perfect (as perfect as life can get when you’re twenty-something and cruising through life) until for Jonah, it isn’t.

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During a drunken sexual encounter with ‘Stalker Becky’, a lump is discovered. (“It’s kinda hot…” Becky mumbles.) A trip to the doctor later, Jonah learns he has testicular cancer. After surgery, he will not be able to father children. And thus it begins.

Ryan Kwanten plays Jonah, a perpetually bemused twenty-something. A little naive and often seemingly lost for words, he is an awkward-but-charming protagonist in line with many other ‘hip’ Gen Y characters (see: any Michael Cera character ever). Kwanten evokes parts of other characters he has played (Vinnie from Home And Away also was diagnosed with testicular cancer, while Jason Stackhouse in True Blood and Oliver from New Girl have the same wide-eyed earnestness about them).

Much like a child being told he will never ever be able to have ice cream again (but not really), Jonah sets off to impregnate someone. Being relatively sane, his housemate Gus (Ryan Corr) tries to foil his plans. Because of reasons, his other housemate, Stevie (Sarah Snook), tries to help. Zany misadventures follow, including more house parties, lies and awkward meetings with exes and lesbian couples. Also sex. Lots of sex.

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The characters are both real and likeable, and while you might shudder at the idea of a clueless, directionless guy like Jonah raising a baby, you can’t help but hope he does manage to convince someone to carry his soon-to-be-doomed sperm. Sarah Snook’s Stevie is somehow Emma Stone-like, whether it’s the red hair or her portrayal of a woman who might not know exactly what she wants, but won’t let anyone push her around in the meantime. Gus is the loyal and surprisingly sensible best friend who also provides a lot of the comic relief.

The end doesn’t come as a great surprise, so if you’re after suspense, this isn’t what you’re looking for. Still, the film is a surprisingly good watch. Although it does bear the much-maligned label of “Australian movie”, it carefully avoids bogans, deserts and crocodiles.

Instead, it’s more of an indie romantic comedy. By substituting deserts and beaches for train stations and suburban streets, director Peter Templeman creates a relevant film that could easily have been shot in New York or London, which contributes to its all-round appeal. Add to that the long silences and bumbling, train-of-thought dialogue of many Gen Y movies (typified in movies such as Juno and Adventureland) and you have a film that manages to be both Australian and enjoyable.

(I feel I should add that Australian movies aren’t instantly terrible, but a lot of moviegoers dismiss them straight away. Don’t dismiss this one.)

Rating: 8/10

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