Being a surfing movie, “Newcastle exists to (1) put pretty young people in very few clothes, and (2) capture via acrobatic cinematography the kinetic glory of people riding huge waves on relative matchsticks of wood and Fiberglas. Helmer Dan Castle’s debut meets the banal sun/sand/sex requirements of genre buffs, but its blunt eroticism and portrait of confused adolescence could also strike a chord among young auds and lift its head above the commercial water.
Filmed entirely in and around Newcastle, New South Wales, pic is a convincing argument for vacationing Down Under, and for the idea of never aging: Jesse (Lachlan Buchanan) and his surfing cronies wear their youth, predictably, like an entitlement and, except for Jesse’s baroque family situation, have very few concerns outside of who will make the local surfing team.
Jesse is saddled with a belligerent older half-brother, the ironically named Victor (Reshad Strik), a former surfing star; and a younger gay brother, Fergus (Xavier Samuel) who causes him constant embarrassment. Jesse’s a talented surfer and kind of a sorehead, who when barred from the team for a perceived violation, takes his buddies on a trip to a remote beach, where a social obstacle course will be run.
There’s a hint — and, frankly, a hope — that “Newcastle” is going to turn into a serial-killer/slasher movie: Blithely beautiful, oblivious teenagers on a remote beach, having fumbling, unconcerned sex? Wes Craven would have unleashed a dozen Freddy Kreugers on them. But the drama is a very low-slung affair, with the interconnections between characters poised to supply us with the only reasons to watch, other than the bodies, the landscape and the water. Narratively, “Newcastle” doesn’t really come across.
But it certainly looks good, even while the pivotal tragedy is unfolding amid an orgy of underwater shots, careless youth and unresolved resentments. “Newcastle” is a bit of a soap which, when combined with this much water, tends to wind up a bit thick.
Production values are superb.