1991, R, 99 min. Directed by John Duigan. Starring Noah Taylor, Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman.
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Dec. 18, 1992
This film is the second installment in Australian writer-director John Duigan's (Romero) coming-of-age trilogy, continuing with the nonconformist, adolescent perspective of the protagonist from the first film (The Year My Voice Broke) -- Danny Embling (Taylor) -- this time as he struggles in the passionate rush of experiencing a first young love. Set in 1965 at an exclusive boys boarding school in rural Australia, Danny takes us into the sophomoric rough and tumble world of adolescent male high jinks, where he is often the object of pranks and taunts, and where an anally retentive headmaster rules with an ever-ready birch and a sadistic gleam in his eyes. Danny manages to survive by turning inward for emotional and intellectual solace -- and by focusing unspoken and unspent romantic yearnings towards a girls boarding school that lies just across the lake. His loneliness remains and his desires are unrealized until the afternoon of a fateful rugby match, when Danny is introduced to a young Ugandan beauty -- Thandiwe (Newton) -- who, like himself, is a loner alienated from the girls at her school due to her intelligence and race. Smoldering, mutual glances of attraction between Danny and Thandiwe continue to grow during their schools' debate matches, and quickly transform into the palatable tension of love on the verge of passion, where the two must constantly scheme for stolen rendevous (to the growing admiration of their peers who gain respect for the two young rebels who dare to buck the regimented, institutional atmosphere of both schools). Duigan constructs his film from various cinematic influences -- from dark-humored, surrealistic Lynchian touches, to the flair of Scorsesean stylization -- which makes what would otherwise be just another predictable coming-of-age film into a touching, humorous insight into adolescence that transcends time and culture. If you're feeling nostalgic for the high of a first love, or you're just plain high on love, anyway, then see Flirting. It will give you the warm fuzzy that you've been looking for.