Self More than this is an indication, then Australian drama is in good hands with the next generation of storytellers.
The Australian Children’s Television Foundation series is not only edgy, progressive and well-executed, it’s all written by teenagers for teenagers. Oh.
Olivia Deble (Little Lunch, Home & Away, Secret Society of Second Born Royals) co-created the series with Luka Gracie (Extend) and both have leading roles in the young ensemble.
What is unmistakable here is the voice of authenticity. These kids aren’t sitting around waiting for adults to tell their story, they’re doing it themselves.
As Skins made in the UK, More than this immerses gritty and confrontational themes, including relationships, body image, sexuality, drugs, self-harm, masturbation, before a high school background.
There are five very different 17-year-olds in this story, all struggling to belong and finding their voice. While the first episode introduces the group, subsequent episodes focus on specific characters.
All five are posted to an English course with benevolent tutor Mr. E (Bert La Bonte).
Charlotte (Olivia Deeble) is dealing with the consequences of her boyfriend Leon (Ellmir Asipi) cheating on her with a classmate, ‘Legs’ (Celine Ajobong). But in addition to keeping up with her studies, she must juggle her part-time job at a local café.
Non-binary student Jamie (Luka Gracie) intervenes at home when her mom (Eve Morey) is forced to work as a nurse. While Jamie is constantly taking care of their little brother, finding a place to fit in at school isn’t easy. But LGBTQI+ student Zali (Selena Brincat) welcomes them into a queer clique led by scene-stealer Benson (Oisín O’Leary). Zali also has problems studying, especially with a demanding father, a girlfriend with growing jealousies and a dark and secretive way of dealing with her anxiety.
Then there’s Alex (Kamil Ellis), who repeats Year 12 and buys weed from college dropout Samuel (Josh Heuston). Her mother is so focused on yoga and meditation that Alex is in the same spiral as her. But Mr. E sees glimpses of himself in the teenager and finds a way to gain his trust.
The importance of learning from mistakes, unconditional love, being true to yourself are strong themes. There is defiance and rebellion and restlessness and isolation and energy rippling beneath these half-hour episodes. An early scene of a hospital waiting room also suggests that we are in for a crisis where someone has reached breaking point. Make no mistake, this is the edgiest show the ACTF has ever done.
Visually guided by director John Sheedy, writer Olivia Deeble has created a strong and distinct young group who are instantly likable. It would be unfair to single out any of these talented young leads, who play all their roles, wear their hearts on their sleeves, and stand up for honesty.
The series is also produced by sisters Kate and Charmaine Gorman, who are clearly leading the work of Deeble (daughter of Kate) and Luka Gracie. More power to them.
One area of improvement should proceed to a second season would be to make the school scenes more populated. Clearly shot in a pandemic, these look too spartan and could benefit from some atmospheric effects.
While showing how Euphoria AND I can destroy you are capturing young viewers in a world where television is presumably dying, More than this it’s a breath of fresh air. It deserves every success.
More Than This airs Friday on Paramount+.