Australian Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant) directed this poignant, humorous examination of adolescence set in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla.
The film focuses on two teenage high school girls – Deb Vickers (Nell Schofield) and Sue Knight (Jad Capelja) – who fret about popularity, sulk, cheat at exams, lie to their parents, fall in with the callous surfer boys of the Greenhills gang, experiment with sex and drugs and, finally, wise up.
By the time the girls get to the beach on weekend mornings, the boys are already almost out of sight on their boards. Once the girls are settled on the sand – talking of nothing but other girls’ clothes and the question of whether to “give in” to boys in the back seats of cars at the drive-in or stay home on Saturday nights – they are expected to watch every move of the surfing boys and praise their performance when they return to shore.
The boys relax on the sand while the girls take orders for takeaway food, get their own money from their purses and go to buy it and bring it back. When they return, they hand the stuff to the boys – who complain about it – but the girls themselves eat nothing.
Deb eventually “gives in” to Garry (Geoff Rhoe) after an unsatisfactory attempt with Bruce (Jay Hackett), and fears she is pregnant.
It’s when Strach (Ned Lander) and a couple of the other surfers lure Freda (Tina Robinson) into a gang rape near the oil refinery that the girls begin to realise that all is not well in their Shire paradise.
Based on the 1979 novel of the same name by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, this subject has been thoroughly explored before, but Bruce Beresford offers a fresh and satisfying approach.
Carey and Lette had based the book on their own experiences growing up on the beach near Cronulla, and young audiences could recognise a lot of their own experiences in the story of Debbie and Sue.
Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell