Boy Swallows Universe | Review by: Benjamin Garrett


Thrilling, sentimental, profound and funny - Boy Swallows Universe is an uneven, albeit occasionally great limited series that bites off more than it can chew. A lack of clear direction lets it down, but it’s got more than enough heart to win you over, and keep you watching. 

The story follows 13 year old Eli Bell and his troubled but loving family, as they navigate life in 1980’s Brisbane. Although the main plot centres around crime drama, this is very much a story about a family bond. No matter how complicated relationships become or what mistakes are made, the undying love within the Bell family is the series’ strong point. The relationship between Eli and his older brother Gus is beautiful, as they’ve experienced a ton of shared trauma during their childhood. 

In fact, Eli shares strong chemistry with almost every character, thanks to Felix Cameron’s terrific performance. The young actor plays every scene perfectly, whether the moment calls for a bit of levity or a tearful outburst of emotion. Phoebe Tonkin is also very good, as a mother fighting her own demons while doing the best she can to protect her family. Simon Baker is a scene stealer, as the boys’ estranged father who’s suddenly forced back into their lives. His bumbling lack of self-assurance works both comedically and emotionally depending on the tone of the scene. 

The family aspects and performances are pretty strong, but unfortunately the series undercuts it with too many subplots and a lack of momentum. With just seven episodes, this show should’ve had its hooks in me by the end of episode one. That wasn’t the case though. It takes a long time to build any real intrigue, and up until the end of the second episode, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep watching. The crime story that runs through the entire series often feels like an afterthought, before taking centre stage in a finale that feels like an entirely different show. 

Boy Swallows Universe lack focus, but paints a touching slice of life picture, proudly wearing its heart on its sleeve. The Bell family is a complicated one, but the loving bond holding them together was strong enough to keep me coming back. 


Review by: Benjamin Garrett

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