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Flirting (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Duigan
Written byJohn Duigan
Produced byTerry Hayes
George Miller
Doug Mitchell
Barbara Gibbs
CinematographyGeoff Burton
Edited byRobert Gibson
Music byJames D'Arcy
Distributed byWarner Bros. (through Roadshow Distributors)
Release date
  • 21 March 1991 (1991-03-21)
Running time
99 minutes
Box office$4 million

Flirting is a 1991 Australian coming-of-age comedy drama film written and directed by John Duigan. The story revolves around a romance between two teenagers, and it stars Noah Taylor, who appears again as Danny Embling, the protagonist of Duigan's 1987 film The Year My Voice Broke. It also stars Thandiwe Newton and Nicole Kidman.

Flirting is the second in an incomplete trilogy of autobiographical films by Duigan. It was produced by Terry Hayes, Doug Mitchell, Barbara Gibbs and George Miller, and made by Kennedy Miller Studios, which also made the Mad Max Trilogy. The film won the 1990 Australian Film Institute Award for Best Film, as The Year My Voice Broke had in 1987.


Danny, now an awkward, underdeveloped 17-year-old, has been sent away by his parents to the all-male St. Albans boarding school in rural New South Wales, Australia, in the hopes he won’t become a delinquent. The year is 1965 and it has been some time since Danny has had any romantic relationship with a girl. Danny is the butt of jokes because of his stutter and long nose (for which he is nicknamed "Bird"). His only friend is Gilbert.

At a school rugby game, he meets and slowly becomes interested in Thandiwe, the daughter of a Ugandan father and Kenyan-British mother, who attends the all-girls Cirencester Ladies’ College across the lake, while her father, a political activist, is lecturing at university in Canberra. They later meet at a debate between the two schools, and covertly during a school dance. She is punished for leaving the dance without permission and is given chores by the prefect, Nicola. Thandiwe is later befriended by Melissa and Janet.

Throughout the course of the school year, they foster a budding romance, despite the overbearing regulations inflicted upon them — specifically racial politics and social conventions (Thandiwe is often regarded by the school authorities as rebellious and overtly sexual). After the performance of the musical, Danny introduces his parents to Thandiwe and her parents. They later decide to return to Uganda in response to the political turmoil there. Soon Thandiwe decides to return too, and lies about her true departure date, in order to spend the night in a motel with Danny. They are discovered, leading to his expulsion. Thandiwe writes to him regularly from Uganda, but then the letters stop coming. One day a letter arrives from Nairobi saying she is finally safe there.



The script was written before The Year My Voice Broke.[2] Although the story evokes universal themes of romance and love, some say that it also examines the properties of the "Australian character": existential isolation and strong cultural ties to Great Britain. It was filmed on location in Sydney, Bathurst, and Braidwood, New South Wales, including scenes at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst.

Flirting features one of the last appearances by Nicole Kidman in an Australian-produced film before she made her transition to Hollywood (though she would return in later years to act in movies for director Baz Luhrmann); Kidman had previously worked with director Duigan on the Australian miniseries Vietnam. Actress Thandiwe Newton later said that starting at her audition, when she was 16, Duigan groomed and sexually abused her.[3]


The song "With a Girl Like You" is actually out of period, not being released until August 1966.


Flirting grossed $1,655,044 at the box office in Australia[4] and $2,415,396 in the US.[5] and was widely critically acclaimed. It featured on Roger Ebert's Top 10 Best Films List of 1992. Later it was ranked number 46 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[6] Vincent Canby of The New York Times commented:

There is a kind of painless calm about "Flirting." The film is simultaneously attractive and just a little dull. Mr. Duigan avoids melodrama, which is all to the good. Yet his gift for the acutely observed commonplace detail is neither strong nor original enough to transform the movie into something comparable to so many similar, better films. The best things about "Flirting" are the performances. Ms. Newton is delightful as Thandiwe, who is far more sophisticated than Danny and wise enough never to let him know it. Mr. Taylor is also good, although the troubled Danny is not an easy character to play. He's virtually the generic artist-as-a-young-man. Nicole Kidman appears in a supporting role as one of Thandiwe's older classmates, who is less of a snob than she first appears.[7]

In his review for The Washington Post, Desson Thomson commented:

The movie is full of wonderful scenes: Newton caught hiding in a boys' toilet stall as the unsuspecting lads come in to shower, a line of uniformed boys ritualistically facing a row of ballroom-gowned girls at a school dance, and so on. "Flirting" is also full of amusing rejoinders and comments: "Remember her needs as well as yours," suggests Taylor's friend with secondhand Kamasutra wisdom when Taylor heads toward an intended sensual tryst. "If you can give her pleasure, she'll be back for more."[8]


The film received the following 1990 AFI Awards:[9]

  • Best Film (Terry Hayes, Doug Mitchell, George Miller)
  • Best Achievement in Editing (Robert Gibson)
  • Best Achievement in Production Design (Roger Ford)

The film was also nominated for the following 1990 AFI Awards:[10]

  • Best Achievement in Sound (Antony Gray, Ross Linton, Phil Judd)
  • Best Actor in Supporting Role (Bartholomew Rose)
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography (Geoff Burton)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Evans, Diana (4 April 2021). ""I'm Taking Back What's Mine": The Many Lives of Thandiwe Newton". Vogue. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  2. ^ Stratton, David (1990). The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry. Macmillan. p. 348. ISBN 978-0732902506.
  3. ^ Jung, E. Alex (7 July 2020). "Thandie Newton Is Finally Ready to Speak Her Mind". Vulture. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Flirting (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  6. ^ "50 best high school movies". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 28 December 2022. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (6 November 1992). "Review/ Film; First Love And Sartre, As a Youth Grows Up". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Howe, Desson (20 November 1992). "Flirting". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Top film award goes to Flirting". The Canberra Times. 11 October 1990. p. 2. Retrieved 21 September 2022.
  10. ^ "Winners & Nominees". www.aacta.org. Retrieved 21 September 2022.

External links[edit]