Puberty Blues

Principal cast and credits

Director: Bruce Beresford

Scriptwriter: Gabrielle Corey, Margaret Kelly, Kathy Lette

Cinematographer: Donald McAlpine

Producer: Margaret Kelly, Joan Long

Production Company: Limelight Production

Lead Actors: Nell Schofield: Debbie Vickers

                      Jad Capelia: Sue Knight

Release Dates

Australia10 December 1981

USA15 July 1983

West Germany27 August 1982

Box Office Figures

Opening weekend in Australia: $3,918,00AUD (http://steven

Opening weekend in USA: $7,381 US (

Bibliographical Details of Interviews

I was unable to find any interviews with Bruce Beresford or any other people involved with the movie at the time of release.  This may be because (as mentioned in the critical uptake section below) critical audiences ignored the film at the time of release.

It was mentioned in review that the newly released DVD of Puberty Blues does contain interviews with Bruce Beresford and Nell Schofield.  I was unable to find a copy of the DVD but the interviews are there.

Bibliographic Details of Reviews


Radio National: presented by Julie Riggs, Sunday 28/11/2004


Metro Magazine, spring 2004 by Lesley Speed

Spirituality and Health: by Fredrick and Mary Ann Brussat, 08/82


Oz Cinema: Puberty Blues-All to Real by Joshua Smith

Senses of Cinema: Review by Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Time Out Film: (need to be a subscriber to read the whole review)

Reviews on the Book Puberty Blues (movie is based on)

The Independent on Sunday, November 2002, by Scarlett Thomas

Online Presence

I found that there was a decent online presence.  It was easy to find the basics (cast, crew, release dates, box office etc.) and there were many links to reviews both from internet sites and magazines.  Most of my information obtained was from the internet.

Critical Review of the film

Plot and Synopsis

The plot of Puberty Blues (Bruce Beresford, 1981) is quite a common theme that runs through teenpics which is the main genre of this film.  It is a coming of age movie where the characters are trying to figure out their place in their social society. This movie follows the main character Debbie and her best friend Sue as they try and gain access in to the “in” crowd.  This “in” crowd consists of the best surfers on Greenhill beach and the girls that are basically their slaves.  This film showcases the extreme importance of feeling accepted and cool during those crucial teen years.  All measures will be taken to feel that way.  Debbie and Sue throughout the movie express the importance of having sex with their boyfriends, mostly out of fear that they will be dropped from the group.   They begin to drink alcohol, smoke weed and cigarettes, and lie to their parents all in the name of the “in” group, and the extreme need to feel accepted.

            I thought that the movie did a decent job of portraying teens and the issues they are faced with in high school.  After all the movie is based on the book Puberty Blues by two Teenagers Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette (Metro magazine).  It was realistic that Debbie and Sue were lying to their parents and hiding the fact that they were drinking, smoking weed, and having sex.  I especially like the scene where Sue comes home from the “movies” or so her parents thought.  She is completely stoned and her parents just think she is acting weird, they are clueless.  I think everyone can relate to the idea of wanting to keep things from your parents and experimenting with new things.

For the most part I thought the movie was very easy for teens to relate to, and touched on all major issues of growing up. I do feel though that there were some exceptions to this.

            In the scene where Debbie and Sue finally are invited to hang out with the in crowd and they converge in the woods to hang out, Debbie is introduced to the boy that has a crush on her.  In the scene they immediately go to hook up without saying more then two sentences to each other.  To me that seemed highly unrealistic and watching it I was surprised at how the scene went.

Another example is the with the nerd/outcast of the story, Fern.  She is offered a ride home from three of the popular surfers, and they proceed to take her on a “shortcut” home.  They pretend to have a fight in her honor, and she defends the boy who is supposedly sticking up for her.  In exchange for them backing off of him she has sex with all three of them.  Maybe my high school was too sheltered but I can’t even fathom a situation like that occurring.  Some name calling, trickery, some gossiping and rumor spreading okay, but basically a gang rape, I am not too sure about that.

Often times in movies and real life the characters will get what they always wanted, like Debbie and Sue’s case they were accepted in to the in crowd, and then realize it is not all it is cracked up to be, and begin the transformation of figuring out what kind of person they want to be.  Debbie has a pregnancy scare and through the experience realizes that her boyfriend and her friends (aside from Sue) really do not care about her that much.  She begins to see the group for what it really is and yearns for some more substance and individuality in her life.

Debbie’s big step in buying the surf board and surfing with the boys is her way of showing everyone that she is more then an audience for the surfers and a sex slave for the boys; because she has made it on to their level through surfing she has gained respect from everyone.

Critical Uptake

            When the film was first released in 1981 “many of the people who saw the film…did so because of their familiarity with the novel” (Metro Magazine, P.1).  The issues addressed in the novel and subsequently in the movie “coincided with real life aspirations to engage in the activities depicted” (Metro Magazine, P.1).  Girls who were coming of age in the 1970’s and 80’s could really relate to the movie which in turn made Puberty Blues “one of the top forty most lucrative Australian films since 1966 [and] moreover, the most prominent in the cycle of Australian youth films that emerged in the late 1970’s and depicts sub cultural themes” (Metro Magazine, P.1).  Nevertheless “Puberty Blues…was largely ignored by the critical community at the time of its release” (Oz cinema, P.1).  This is apparent in my research on the movie where most of the reviews found are recent rather then at the time of release.  Even though critical audiences didn’t pay much attention teen audiences did.  “Puberty Blues struck a chord with [them] when it was released because of its depictions of the surfing culture and of ritual experimentations with sex and drugs were refreshingly frank” (senses of cinema, P.1). At the time teen audiences really liked and could relate to the film, now “those very teenagers have grown-up and now commonly look on the film with affection” (Senses of Cinema, P.1).

Production and Release

I wasn’t able to find much on actual facts and figures of the production of Puberty Blues and the budget allowed.  Though it has been stated that “Puberty Blues is a very low-budget Australian film” (, P.1).  So based on this fact and the box office figures presented in the beginning, Puberty Blues did well.  It wasn’t an expensive film to make and it drew in a big teenage following who also continues to rent the movie still bringing in money towards the film today.

The Role of Puberty Blues in Bruce Beresford’s Career

            Bruce Beresford has been very influential in Australian cinema.  In the 1970’s there was a decline in the Menzies government and in turn “an environment was established in which Australian artists could experiment with cinema” (, P.1).  Bruce Beresford was beginning his career around this time and took advantage of these new initiatives.  He fell in to making “crass ‘ocker’ sexploitation films [such as] The adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)” (, P.1).  So Puberty Blues fits in nicely with the sexual revolution theme.  The difference between Puberty Blues and Beresford’s earlier films is that he is “shifting focus away from the intensely masculine perspective…[and] depicts pressures to conform with in a sexist surfie sub culture as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl” (Senses of Cinema, P.1).  Also the fact that Puberty Blues is based on a novel fits in the theme that a lot of Beresford’s works are “based on established literary pieces” ( P.1), such as Don’s Party based on a David Williamson stage play, The Getting of Wisdom based on a Henry Handel Richardson novel, and The Club also based on a David Williamson play.  What I have found is that the general theme of Beresford’s works is the “focus on exploration” (, P.1).  This theme runs throughout Puberty Blues.

Position of Australian Film and Value

          Puberty Blues had an impact on Australian film.  Not only does it encompass the Australian surf culture, but Bruce Beresford helped shaped Australian teenpics in the process of this movie.  The popularity of the film when it was released and the subsequent viewing of it from people who are looking back on their adolescents shows that it had an affect on the Australian community and film industry.


            Puberty Blues falls in the Genre of teenpics.  I feel that this movie is a model for teenpics.  It deals solely with teen issues, and has attractive looking actors to draw in the audience.  I feel it had traces of a drama genre as well, but is primarily a teenpic.



Metro Magazine, Spring 2004, by Lesley Speed

Senses of Cinema: review by Daniel Mudie Cunningham. Article in Focus: Bruce Beresford, by Joshua Smith