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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Puberty Blues
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Anchor Bay Entertainment 08/82 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R

Peer group pressure during adolescence often reshapes an individual's basic values. At this time, cliques are stronger than at any other time in life. Popularity — the recognition and positive judgement from one's own age group — is sought as a proof of self-worth. Puberty Blues, which is set in contemporary Australia, chronicles this quest through the adventures of two teenagers.

Debbie (Nell Schofield) and Sue (Jad Capelja) are bored with their suburban lifestyle. They long to be "Surfie Chicks" in the Greenhills, the school's "popular" crowd. To gain and maintain this status, Debbie and Sue cheat one exams, have sex on demand, experiment with alcohol and marijuana, and treat those outside the gang with disdain.

Bruce Beresford (director of Breaker Morant, The Getting of Wisdom, Don's Party, and Tender Mercies) again demonstrates his laid-back film style which focuses on character and values under pressure. Although initially exuberant about their achievements, Debbie and Sue begin to see other sides of their gang of athletic, handsome boys and docile, pretty girls: friendship devoid of loyalty, sex without emotion, and chauvinism which denies the inherent worth of women.

Debbie's fright over a possible pregnancy and her shock at the heroin death of her former boyfriend lead her to re-evaluate the clique. In the end, with Sue cheering her on, she breaks free by transcending the rigorous code of the gang which holds that only boys can surf. On a beach full of their peers, these two desperate romantics assert their individuality.

Puberty Blues is an excellent film for youth that honestly and sensitively deals with some of the central trials and temptations of growing up. It is neither preachy nor tawdry. Thanks mainly to the consummate storytelling skills of Bruce Beresford, Debbie and Sue's experiences convey a universal message.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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