It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Flirting" is one of those rare movies with characters I cared about intensely. I didn't simply observe them on the screen, I got involved in their decisions and hoped they made the right ones. The movie is about two teenagers at private schools in Australia in the 1960s, a white boy and an African girl, who fall in love and do a little growing up at the same time.
The boy is Danny (Noah Taylor), awkward, a stutterer, the target of jokes from some of his classmates. He has a fine offbeat mind, which questions authority and doubts conventional wisdom. He is gawky in that way teenage boys can be before the parts grow into harmony with the whole. The girl is Thandiwe (Thandie Newton), very pretty, very smart, attracted to Danny because alone of the boys in her world he possesses a sense of humor and rebellion. She first sees him during a get-together between their twin schools, which are on either side of a lake, and looks at him boldly until he meets her gaze. Not long after, they are on opposing debate teams, and carry on a subtle little flirtation by disagreeing with the arguments of their own sides.
The girl's mother was British; her stepmother is African, like her father, who is a diplomat. Uganda is newly independent and is approaching the agony of the Idi Amin years. Events far away in Africa will decide whether the boy and girl will be able to carry on a normal teenage flirtation, or whether she will be swept away by the tide of history. Meanwhile, their eyes wide open, with joy and solemnity, they try to honor their love.
The movie is not about "movie teenagers," those unhappy creatures whose interests are limited and whose values are piggish.