If you look around the current slate of teen-oriented storylines, there’s a lot of sexting and d*** pics out there.
HBO’s Euphoria is the most confronting and explicit, if that’s what your’e looking for, whilst ABC’s The Heights sees Sabine (Bridie McKim) subjected to a photo rippling through her school community. Upcoming HBO film Share also tackles the subject.
Enter SBS miniseries The Hunting which centres around school students, parents and teachers in Adelaide. This takes an introspective, slow-burn approach with a solid ensemble in a script by Matthew Cormack (52 Tuesdays, F*!#ing Adelaide), and Niki Aken (The Secret Daughter, Janet King).
Four teens drive the storyline, all with equal input. Nassim (Yazeed Daher) is the son of Lebanese Australians who is developing a romance with Amandip (Kavitha Anandasivam), who has conservative parents. Nassim is mates with Andy (Alex Cusack) who engages in cybersex with Zoe (Luca Sardelis).
When teacher Ray (Sam Reid) catches a d*** pic being exchanged on phones in his classroom he tries to contain the misdemeanour, despite the legal complications around consent and child porn. But images extend even further to dark web sites in which schoolgirls are traded like cheap commodities, in a scandal that will tear through a school community.
As the 4 episodes unfold and questions of trust, shame and misogyny escalate, Ray finds himself more deeply compromised over his concern for young individuals versus the policy of the education system.
Meanwhile parents, including affluent society couple (Richard Roxburgh, Asher Keddie), same-sex parents (Elena Carapetis, Anna Lindner) and Indian Australians (Leah Vandenberg, Sachin Joab), are drawn into a tug of war. This also features Jessica De Gouw, Pamela Rabe and Rodney Afif.
The story by Matthew Cormack and Sophie Hyde (also 52 Tuesdays, F*!#ing Adelaide) juggles the complex themes with deserved weight, whether as teen arrogance, naiveté or exploitation. But it is a challenge when there are two cases of nude photo sharing and I couldn’t help but feel one might provide more clarity. Some of the series becomes a “whodunnit” as to the culprit uploader, but not at the expense of trauma for those at the centre of the scandal/s.
Director Ana Kokkinos elicits outstanding performances from her young cast (newcomer Alex Cusack is known to TV audiences as a poet Ninja on Australian Ninja Warrior). All deserve further screen opportunities. Sam Reid, currently starring in Lambs of God, is the other stand-out and it’s great to see Adelaide as a modern TV drama backdrop.
Against the bleak, hard core world of Euphoria, The Hunting is a relatively optimistic community where the kids will hopefully rise above their humiliation and lessons are hard learned.
This is another noble work from SBS that is lifted by a fine cast that may well lead to conversations you didn’t want to have.
The Hunting airs 8:30pm Thursday on SBS.