The recent Netflix adaptation of the bestselling Australian novel Boy Swallows Universe has brought 1980s Brisbane vividly to life on screen. Did you know that a Wavell Heights Queenslander served as the home of one of the main characters in the film?
In the book, Eli Bell’s estranged father Robert lives in a rundown but charming Queenslander. For the adaptation, the filmmakers found the perfect home on a corner block in Wavell Heights, with a beautiful mature Royal Poinciana tree out front.
This quaint property, which producers deemed perfect for the requirement, was located at Thornton Parade. Its general look and ambiance helped transport viewers back to the 1980s.
Robert Bell (played by Simon Baker) is the alcoholic father of Eli (Felix Cameron) and Gus (Lee Halley). He loves his sons deeply, but his drinking prevents him from being a consistent presence in their lives. Robert is a flawed yet caring father, inspired by author Trent Dalton’s own relationship with his dad.
Though absent for stretches of time, Robert’s sporadic reappearances in the boys’ lives have a profound impact. Like Dalton’s father, Robert in the book represents a parent unable to overcome their demons yet still devoted to their children.
The Wavell Heights Queenslander makes up just one part of Boy Swallows Universe’s diverse Brisbane filming locations. Other shoot sites included Beenleigh, Darra, Greenslopes, Chelmer, South Brisbane, Pinkenba and more. Together, they showcase Brisbane as it was in that period – a grittier, less developed city than today.
The coming-of-age story follows Eli as he deals with his dysfunctional family and gets caught up in Brisbane’s criminal underworld. Author Trent Dalton’s vivid descriptions of real Brisbane suburbs and landmarks help ground this captivating tale.
For locals, seeing these familiar places faithfully recreated on screen adds an extra layer of enjoyment. Wavell Heights plays an important role in bringing Eli’s complicated homelife to the screen. It’s a testament to the care taken by the show’s creators to authentically capture the book’s sense of place. Boy Swallows Universe is proving a hit with audiences worldwide.
Its Brisbane filming locations take viewers back in time, whilst offering locals a nostalgic glimpse of their hometown in decades past. Wavell Heights’ starring role connects it to this hugely successful Australian story.