Not Suitable for Children (MA 15+). Director: Peter Templeman. Starring Ryan Kwanten, Bojana Novakovic, Ryan Corr. 97 minutes
Meaning and purpose can come from the most unexpected sources. They can also arrive unbidden and unsought.
Life’s Big Questions are not at the fore of 20-something party planner Jonah’s (Kwanten) mind. The nearest thing he has to existential dilemmas consist of how to bribe a grumpy neighbour to let him siphon off his electricity to power a house party, or how to squeeze extra bucks out of his pissed and paid-up patrons.
Then: crisis. During what is for Jonah simply another senseless sexual encounter, he finds a lump on his testicle. It’s only small, the size of a pea, but its significance for Jonah is as big as the whale that devoured his biblical namesake. Specialists inform Jonah the cancer is treatable, but the treatment will render him infertile.
This is the beginning of a bona fide existential crisis for Jonah. He’s always envisioned he'll be a dad, although not until he reaches that nebulous future known as ‘some day’. Now his fertility has an expiry date. Due to a rare abnormality, his sperm is not freezable. His only shot at biological fatherhood is to get a girl pregnant, soon.
Not Suitable For Children, albeit a comedy, navigates its topic with less puerility and more grace and substance than you might expect. The title is ambiguous, referring to the at times darkly humorous, and even sordid, content, but also to Jonah’s lack of not just physical but also, initially, emotional and psychological capacity for parenthood.
At first there is a glib desperation to his quest. He humiliates himself and an endless stream of ex-girlfriends by reconnecting with them and ambushing them with requests that they become the mother of his child … like, now. To their credit none of these young women takes the request lightly.
Eventually his friend Stevie (Snook) agrees to help him along his way, introducing him first to her lesbian colleague and her partner, who are aspiring to parenthood, and then to another, single 30-something co-worker who has given up on love but is desperate for a child. These encounters only highlight how ready Jonah isn’t.
But this whole experience represents a belated coming-of-age for the boyish Jonah. As the deadline approaches he grows wiser and comes to appreciate that parenthood is not to be entered into easily, however desperate the circumstances. The cynical and staunchly anti-kids Stevie, too, is changed by her proximity to the changes in him.
Jonah and Stevie, then, come to consider another solution. Not Suitable For Children finds surprising, amusing and at times downright moving paths to the ultimately predictable resolution of Jonah’s dilemma.
Tim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street.