Bruce Beresford's "Puberty Blues" is a brutally honest coming-of-age tale set in the surf culture of the 1970s' Australia. Adapted from the novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, the film delves into the lives of two teenage girls, Debbie (Nell Schofield) and Sue (Jad Capelja), as they navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence, peer pressure, and the quest for acceptance within their tight-knit beach community.
What resonates most profoundly in "Puberty Blues" is its unflinching portrayal of teenage life. The film's honest exploration of the challenges faced by young people, particularly girls, is a breath of fresh air in the often sugar-coated realm of coming-of-age cinema. Beresford does not shy away from the harsh realities of teenagehood, tackling subjects like drug use, casual sex, and the objectification of women with a candid and impactful approach.
The performances by Nell Schofield and Jad Capelja are at the heart of the film, capturing the vulnerability and raw emotions of their characters with stunning authenticity. Their on-screen chemistry lends credence to the notion that, at its core, "Puberty Blues" is a story about friendship and the unwavering bond between two young women attempting to find their place in a world that often seems indifferent to their struggles.
Beresford's direction is both gritty and intimate, with cinematographer Donald McAlpine's work capturing the sun-soaked beaches and suburbs of Sydney in a manner that reflects the film's overall tone. The score by Les Gock, however, may feel dated to some viewers, but it adds a layer of nostalgic charm to the movie, transporting audiences back to the era of the story's setting.
One possible criticism of "Puberty Blues" is that the film's pacing can occasionally feel slow, which may not be to everyone's taste. However, this deliberate pace allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the characters' lives and the subtle nuances of their emotional journeys.
In conclusion, "Puberty Blues" is a powerful and thought-provoking coming-of-age story that delves into the raw and sometimes painful realities of adolescence. The film's unapologetic exploration of teenage life, bolstered by standout performances from its young leads, makes it a compelling and memorable watch for viewers interested in a more grounded and honest portrayal of growing up.