Director: Gabriel Carrubba
Starring: Liam Mollica, Luke J Morgan, Olivia Fildes, Daniel Halmarick
Distributor: Radioactive Pictures
Runtime: 84 mins. Reviewed in Jul 2024
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong coarse language

A 17-year-old boy struggles to understand and embrace his sexuality as he comes of age in the working-class suburbs on Melbourne’s edge.

Sunflower opens with a young man standing in the vast field of sunflowers, bright blue sky. Then follows a schoolyard bashing sequence a group of young man hitting and kicking another. Later there will be flashbacks to these sequences.

Writer-director Carrubba, has noted that his film is semi-autobiographical, set in the working-class suburbs of south-east Melbourne where he grew up. His film is billed as ‘coming-of-age’, but the particular emphasis is on 17-year-old Leo and his Italian family background with a stay-at-home mother, a demanding truck-driving father and younger brother. Leo is grappling with his sexual orientation.

Audiences have seen this kind of story before, which makes one ask while watching the film, who is it intended for? In an interview, Carrubba has said that he didn’t have an audience in mind, just wanted to tell the story. He appreciates that teenagers undergoing the same questions, identity-seeking, will identify with Leo. It is a film which parents could watch and while they might find it challenging, give them something to think about. But, many high-school homophobic-environment boys will not want to watch it.

Carrubba has said he used the sunflower imagery deliberately. The flower is ugly when it is growing but, in full bloom, is bright and full of colour. And the sunflower imagery in painting and in fields of flowers recurs during the film.

Mollica is effective as Leo, though he and the other high schoolers look rather older. Leo tries to be one of the boys, mates with the rowdy Boof (Morgan), more than an eye on the girls at school, but having to confront the reality of sexual encounters and relationships. The film focuses on Leo and his attempts to be as ordinary as he can be, and the rumours and gossip around the school, then the scene we have already noted of the bashing, his being ostracised, his concern about his parents, his growing anger and pushing people away.

It is his sympathetic brother who is aware of the situation and suggests some contact with another boy at the school, Tom, whom audiences have realised is also gay. The friendship grows, Leo begins to accept himself, and, the film ends with hope, Leo’s letter to his father and mother and their response.

This is a small film, the director’s visual coming to terms with his own life, the possibility for next steps in his life and in his career.

12 Random Films…



Scroll to Top