Netflix’s latest limited series, “Boy Swallows Universe,” has taken viewers on a whirlwind journey through the sun-baked suburbs of 1980s Brisbane, Australia. Based on Trent Dalton’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, the show is a potent blend of coming-of-age drama, gritty crime thriller, and dark humor, narrated through the eyes of an intelligent and fiercely loyal young boy named Eli Bell.
Eli, played with astonishing depth and nuance by newcomer Teo Kokic, is the heart and soul of the series. He’s a whirlwind of curiosity and imagination, armed with a vocabulary beyond his years and a fierce determination to protect his family, particularly his mother, from the encroaching darkness. When their lives are upended by a debt owed to a local drug lord, Eli embarks on a suburban odyssey, navigating a world of gangsters, cops, and broken dreams, all while trying to hold onto his childhood innocence.
The supporting cast is equally stellar, bringing a vivid tapestry of characters to life. Travis Fimmel, known for his role as Ragnar Lothbrok in “Vikings,” sheds his warrior persona to portray Eli’s troubled ex-con father. At the same time, Phoebe Tonkin delivers a nuanced performance as his fiercely protective mother. Simon Baker shines as the charismatic yet dangerous drug lord, adding a layer of unsettling charm to the series’ underbelly.
More Than a Show:
“Boy Swallows Universe” is more than just a crime drama; it’s a poignant exploration of family, loyalty, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The series beautifully captures the sun-drenched nostalgia of 80s Australia, contrasting it with the harsh realities of poverty and violence that lurk beneath the surface. The soundtrack, a mix of iconic Australian hits and pulsating synth-pop, adds to the show’s evocative atmosphere.
Directorial trio Bharat Nalluri, Jocelyn Moorhouse, and Kim Mordaunt masterfully weave Eli’s childlike wonder with the harsh realities of the adult world. The cinematography is stunning, capturing the Australian landscape’s beauty and the claustrophobic darkness of the criminal underworld.
While the series tackles some heavy themes, it never loses its sense of humor. Eli’s quirky observations and innocent misinterpretations of the adult world provide moments of comic relief, reminding us of the beauty and humor that can be found even in the darkest times.
“Boy Swallows Universe” is a powerful and moving series that will stay with you long after the credits roll. It’s a testament to the enduring power of storytelling, reminding us that even in the most challenging circumstances, hope and love can still find a way to shine through.