Newcastle, the movie: you be the critic

HANG TEN: Lachlan Buchanan surfs in Newcastle.
HANG TEN: Lachlan Buchanan surfs in Newcastle.

Newcastle, the movie, is now showing.

Did you like it? Is it an authentic portrait of our city and its surfers?

Read The Herald's review and share your thoughts with other moviegoers.


NEWCASTLE and environs have rarely looked as inviting on the screen as they do in the feature film Newcastle.

From the opening glimpse of a mist-shrouded Christ Church Cathedral at dawn, to a glimmering Newcastle Ocean Baths drenched in sunlight to the cityscape panorama as seen from out behind the break at Newcastle Beach, Newcastle's backdrops shine.

Even the heavy metal grime of the industrial port and the queue of hulking colliers on the horizon take on a striking beauty when contrasted against the idyllic scenes of turquoise surf breaks, golden sand and bright blue sky.

But then the teenage surfers in the foreground open their mouths.

The whiny strine, abrasive vernacular and profanity of the young characters in Newcastle may be an authentic echo of Newcastle, but their cringeful dialogue goes down like a mouthful of seawater.

Newcastle screens exclusively in Newcastle for a week before opening nationally on November 6.

Blond-haired, blue-eyed pin-up spunk Lachlan Buchanan heads the cast as 17-year-old Jesse Hoff, a surfing prodigy who hopes the upcoming junior pro surf contest will be his ticket out of the working-class town he calls a "shit-hole".

The failure years earlier of his older step-brother, the now bitter and jealous Victor (Reshad Strik), gives Jesse's dream of escape added desperation.

When Jesse's three surfie mates talk him into a trip to the Stockton Dunes before the contest, they pack up their boards, two girls and Jesse's embarrassing fraternal twin brother Fergus (Xavier Samuel) for a weekend of booze, waves and sexual discovery.

With his pale skin, dyed hair, black fingernail polish and eyeliner, Fergus doesn't surf but longs to fit in with the boys and nurses a secret crush on Andy (Kirk Jenkins), the gang's best surfer.

The getaway turns tragic when belligerent Victor shows up to put Jesse in his place.

Newcastle's handsome production values and lush surfing footage belie its modest, $3 million budget.

Writer-director Dan Castle had four cameramen capture his cast in action carving through the curls, with hand-held cameras putting us right there on and under the water as the waves churn.

The framing is tight and the surfer point of view adds to the authenticity, though there's only so much artfully filmed and edited wave porn mere landlubbers can take.

Newcastle's hackneyed coming-of-age storyline of adolescent angst, sibling rivalry and family tragedy offers a few touching moments that rise above soap.

Fergus is the most sympathetic character. His struggle with his feelings for Andy, and Andy's surprising response, provide some of the film's most tender and affecting moments.

By comparison, Buchanan's stroppy Jesse and his bleached-blond mates (played by Jenkins, Ben Milliken and Israel Cannan) tend to blur into each another and the two girls in their gang are mostly adornments, spilling out of their bikinis in unsubtle slow-motion.

Castle devotes more skin time to the rippling torsos, tanned pecs and naked backsides of his male cast, which may please women but could have macho blokes squirming.

Parental note: the film is expected to be classified "M" for its language, nudity and sex scenes, which include Jesse masturbating and later losing his virginity in a clumsy sleeping bag encounter alongside his mate.

Rating: ***


Are you keen to see Newcastle? If so, why? If not, why not?

If you have seen it, do you reckon it's an accurate impression of our city, its beaches, blue-collar family life, its surfing community and what it’s like to grow up in Newcastle?

Which local backdrop came up best on the big-screen? Nobbys Beach, Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle Beach, the Stockton dunes, Newcastle Ocean Beaths, Redhead Beach shark tower?

What do you think non-Newcastle audiences will make of it?

What was your favourite scene? Who was the hottest cast member? The surfing action looked fabulous, but was there too much of it? What about the the dialogue and acting _ was it authentic or TV soap?

Distributor Icon has been anxious to downplay the film's gay subplot for fear of scaring off mainstream movie-goers, especially young blokes. Did you mind the amount of male nudity in the film? How did you think director Dan Castle handled the gay subplot? Did you find it touching or out of place in a surf movie?

How does Newcastle compare to other Newcastle-based films (like Bootmen or Black Rock) or other surf films (like Summer City or Endless Summer) you have seen?

Share your thoughts here.