Meet the fam

Boy Swallows Universe: Family first

Riley Riley

And I thought I had a rough childhood.

Boy Swallows Universe is a seven-part Australian television series that tells the sometimes funny, often harrowing story of the Bell family as it negotiates the ups and downs of the Brisbane underworld in the 1980s.

We meet estranged father and struggling alcoholic Robert Bell, his replacement, drug dealer and stepfather Lyle Orlik, partner and drug addict Frances Bell, her eldest son August ‘Gus’ who can’t speak for some reason and the youngest member of the family, the imaginative and irrepressible Eli.

The Bells will make you cringe, they’ll make you laugh and they’ll make you cry, all in the one day as 13-year-old Eli decides to take matters into his own hands as the family threatens to fall apart after Lyle disappears and his mother winds up in gaol.

Produced by Andrew Mason and Troy Lum and written by John Collee, Boy Swallows Universe is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Trent Dalton

Although I haven’t read the book, I might have to after bingeing this series — it’s a ripper!

Stand by for the awards.

Boy Swallows Universe features many familiar faces, including Travis Fimmel as Lyle Orlik (Gus and Eli’s stepfather), Simon Baker as Robert Bell (Gus and Eli’s father), Phoebe Tonkin as Frankie Bell (Gus and Eli’s mother), Bryan Brown as Slim Halliday (Gus and Eli’s babysitter), Anthony LaPaglia as Tytus Broz (boss and drug dealer) and Deborah Mailman as Poppy Birkbeck (guidance counsellor).

The mute Gus is played by Lee Tiger Halley and Jake Cockburn at the age of seven.

Zac Burgess plays Eli Bell (age 17), Felix Cameron (age 13) and Auden Ryan (age 6).

Christopher James Baker will give you nightmares as the psychotic hitman Ivan Kroll.

If you think Fimmel looks familiar as Lyle, you’re right.

Remove the mullet and you’ve got Ragnar Lothbrok from the long-running Vikings (2013).

However, it’s the irrepressible Felix as Eli who steals the show.

He has previously appeared in Penguin Bloom (2020)

With their stepfather gone and their mother locked up, Gus and Eli are forced to go and live with their alcoholic father, played by an almost unrecognisable Baker.

In the first episode, we find that Eli is being bullied by a crazy kid with a samurai sword at school.

Things look grim but fortunately a teacher cuts the episode short . . . literally.

Be sure to look out for the scene where the family goes to a posh house to buy a second-hand Atari games console. Noice.

Boy Swallows Universe boasts a fabulous cast, with a story that couldn’t all be true — could it?

Watch out for author Trent Dalton who makes an uncredited appearance as a hospital patient in episode one.

You can catch Boy Swallows Universe on Netflix.


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Time out score

Final thoughts . . .



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