Boy Swallows Universe Is the Perfect Coming-of-Age Slow-Burn Drama


  • Boy Swallows Universe is a realistic and unconventional coming-of-age story filled with drugs, nefarious characters, and familial heartbreak.
  • The show explores the unwavering bond between Eli and his selectively mute brother, Gus, as they navigate through trauma and upheaval together.
  • The series incorporates imaginative elements through Gus’s ability to see future moments, adding a unique and well-designed narrative to the story.

While Boy Swallows Universe is definitely about a boy coming of age, the series doesn’t unfold in the delightful way many viewers might expect from such a story. By no means is the series a lighthearted one. It is, however, a realistic one, at least in a sense. Based on the semi-autobiographical book of the same name by Trent Dalton, it’s an unconventional coming-of-age story that many films or television shows portray. Nonetheless, it’s most certainly one worth watching. There are a lot of drugs, drug dealings, nefarious characters, and plenty of familial heartbreak throughout the entirety of the show. That being said, it’s a deeply emotional series filled with characters who try their best, which is sometimes all anyone can do.

The show follows a precocious 13-year-old boy named Eli (Felix Cameron) in Brisbane, Australia, in 1985. Along with his selectively mute brother, Gus (Lee Halley), the pair set out to do what they can for each other and their family after their mother, Frankie (Phoebe Tonkin), is sent to prison for the extracurricular dealings undertaken by their stepfather, Lyle (Travis Fimmel), who is whisked away by the people he’s double-crossed. Despite the series’s seemingly rough edges, the show’s heart rests on Eli’s shoulders and his ever-wishful thinking in the face of the harsh adult world around him. As such, there are many reasons the series is a heartfelt, slow-burning, coming-of-age story audiences should see.

The Brothers’ Bond in Boy Swallows Universe Is Unwavering

One of the most heartwarming aspects of the series involves the unwavering bond between Eli and Gus. Throughout the continuous chaos that emerges in their lives, the one constant they have is each other. Despite all the trauma they’ve experienced and all the upheaval they’ve endured, they each still have their brother, the only other person who can truly understand their circumstances. They don’t argue in the way some brothers might in such stories. Instead, they rely on one another to make it through the sadness and heartbreak they inevitably endure after the surrounding adults make poor decisions despite their good intentions.


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Complicated But Well-Meaning Male Role Models

A coming-of-age story would be nothing without words of wisdom from well-meaning but complicated role models. Boy Swallows Universe has those in abundance. As a friend of the family, Slim Halliday (Bryan Brown), a former ex-con, spends his time babysitting Eli, all while bestowing a slew of important life lessons. Speaking matter-of-factly, Slim never minces his words. As a result, Eli’s continuously enamored with him and his wise words.

Additionally, Eli has a prison pen pal named Alex (Adam Briggs), whom he regularly writes to and confides in. Much like Slim, Alex offers up all the lessons he’s learned throughout his life up to that point. While most relate to his time in prison and what landed him there, Eli applies them to his life and how he conducts himself with others.

On the other hand, the complex fathers in his life, his dad Robert Bell (Simon Baker) and his stepfather Lyle, don’t pontificate their lessons. Instead, their actions and efforts to overcome their flawed nature ultimately show Eli how to live his life. Each man provides a different piece of the puzzle for Eli, which inevitably shapes the kind of person he chooses to be.


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Imaginative Elements in Boy Swallows Universe Provide a Unique Narrative

While the show is grounded in reality, it offers enough imaginative elements to provide a unique, well-designed narrative. With Eli’s childlike imagination and Gus’s uncommon ability to see future moments in time, the coming-of-age story turns into something a bit more special. While Gus isn’t necessarily a soothsayer who can call upon his ability to see what will come to pass, he can see images of the future.

However, the series doesn’t present such a trait as a hokey supernatural talent. Rather, he sees random snapshots that don’t entirely make sense. As such, he draws pictures of what he sees or writes words in the air that often have no logical correlation until the moment has already passed. His ability doesn’t consume the show, but it is a significant part of the story that ultimately helps to push the narrative forward.

Ultimately, Boy Swallows Universe is a unique coming-of-age story that doesn’t necessarily unfold as audiences might think. It is a show about a boy surrounded by love and the struggles of parenthood; no matter how complicated and messy his circumstances might be, there are plenty of subplots layered on top. Without a doubt, those in Eli’s life love and care for him unconditionally. While they may not always make the best choices, they do their best for Eli and his brother. All episodes of Boy Swallows Universe are currently streaming on Netflix.

Stream on Netflix


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