Thom: A Portrait of Modern Youth

Thom is a 19 year-old from the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland, mid-way down the east coast of Australia. He’s also the subject of Riley Blakeway’s eponymous, debut biopic film embedded above. Like a lot of films that capture the essence of Australian culture, there’s an underlying and at times depressing sense of sparseness and futility – a sense that in fact, the portrait of Australian youth in many senses, is much the same as it ever was.

It’s very easy to relate to this film. As an [young] Australian, I find myself facing many of the same conflicts Thom describes in his interview, despite being at a very different point in my life and (I imagine) taking a different path to Thom’s. Aside from the common references to the ocean and mateship, there’s another very Australian theme highlighted in Blakeway’s film — movement.

For the majority of Australian youth, work is a means to an end: it’s meant to be hard and you’re supposed to hate it. But work means money. Money is a means to escape. And escape means, discovery, movement and success. And as Blakeway writes in the opening titles “Success is striking a balance between art and commerce”. I’d love to know if those words are Blakeway’s own. It’s a phrase you could imagine Warhol would have said or maybe Alain de Botton. But surprisingly, a Google search of the quote only yields a link to a zine created by Blakeway to accompany the film – which incidentally is equally well put together and a worth checking out (below).

Thom obviously possesses artistic talents, but they’re not a point of focus in his profile. There’s still a dominant paradigm in mainstream Australian culture that you can’t make a living from art (and there’s a whole other argument around the truth in that statement and the reasons for it).

Dreaming: It’s a central theme in a lot of cultures. It seems to come up a lot in discussions for advertising campaigns around what’s important to Chinese. But the cultural difference is in what those dreams are and how they’re interpreted. In China, it often comes back to family and the importance of achieving personal success in order to look after, repay or provide for them. There’s not mention of Thom’s family in Blakeway’s film –just his brother (his best mate). Instead, Thom’s dreams are about escaping and self-fulfillment –arguably a trait of the more individualist Gen Y paradigm.

I truly empathise with Thom’s impatience and desire to have a hand in shaping my individual fate. Something that’s driven home when Thom says, “Surfing, you get what you’re given…skateboading you can work at it more…try and get better”. We’re both hyper sensitive to the possibility of ‘wasting time’…not content with sitting in a job, getting a paycheck in the mail each week, without achieving something; making something; changing our (lowercase) world.

Further reading:

  • J.S

    Wow. Such a Beautiful Article. Im Not an Australian and I don’t know as Much about you guys as I would Like to. So Thank You for Explaining to me more about how this film relates to modern australian Youth. Thank You. THOM A.P.O.M.Y really is Such a Great Piece. At Surface Level it Looks Like an Artistic Take on your Common Interview. But I do Understand that’s its So Much More than that. It Means A Lot to Me as Well but there is Meaning to it that Ive yet to fully realize. But Maybe oneday. Im Happy you wrote this. :)