Flammable Children review: Amidst all the great comedies of 2018 comes another one to join the ranks – a wild, raucous and absolute belter of a romp set against the backdrop of the sun-drenched 1970s.
Flammable Children review by Awais Irfan.
The freewheeling story follows 3 upper-class families, long-time neighbours and friends, in 1970s Sydney – “a decade with too much time, too much money and too much cask wine” as we’re told in the film’s initial few minutes – as they spend time together and bicker and find all sorts of insane ways to cause trouble for one another. But, at the core of this story is young filmmaker Jeff (Atticus Rob), armed with his super 8 camera and constantly filming everything, and his endearing relationship with the cynical Melly (Darcey Wilson), as they learn that childhood is tough and that life with their extravagant families isn’t so easy-going after all.
Writer/director Stephan Elliott’s dual-titled Flammable Children – or Swinging Safari, as it’s more commonly known/formerly titled – lacks much of a narrative. Beyond a small subplot dedicated to a beached whale, the freewheeling flow of this film works with each scene setting up a crazy, comedic set piece and causing conflict and that leading on to more conflict and this constant loop with very little substance and story actually backing it all. In this regard, the film is weak. If you’re wanting a genuine plot and overarching narrative, this isn’t for you. It’s sort of all over the place; it’s jarring and convoluted as a result, sprawling and inconsequential with no real purpose. Well, no real purpose beyond being utterly batshit crazy and gut-shatteringly hysterical.
And this is where the film really makes its mark. From the opening scene, the laughs flow thick and fast and the comedy is absolutely hilarious. The film is absolutely insane in the situations it can think up, each one more bananas and ludicrous than what came before, but it’s certainly tons of fun to watch. The colourful and stacked cast – that features the likes of Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell and Julian McMahon amongst many others – are all superb together and the comedic timing and chemistry on shown is electric and infectious; they’re a wild bunch, crass and filthy and motor-mouthed, but they really embody that “over-the-top 70s flamboyancy” well and it makes for some very, very funny and very enjoyable viewing. Elliott’s sense of humour here is dark and rude and doesn’t really hold back; as a result, it won’t be for everyone. But it’s the sheer shock of hearing and seeing some of the absolutely crazy stuff that you do that makes it so funny to watch.
Beyond the characters of Jeff and Melly though, the folk inhabiting this screenplay are quite one-dimensional. They’re all forgettable and idiotic and there’s no real investment or attachment into what’s going on so it’s not quite a film you’ll be mulling over for too long once it’s over. Yes, Flammable Children is hilarious. It’s lusciously crafted through impressive costume and production design and some colourful, vibrant and sun-soaked cinematography. The sequences are tons of fun and impressively constructed and you’ll laugh until your sides hurt. But there’s not much more to this; it’s thin and frustratingly all over the place and not one that will linger long after it’s over.
Flammable Children review by Awais Irfan, July 2018.
Flammable Children was reviewed at the 2018 Edinburgh International Film Festival.