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On 9th of November 1983 two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Geoff Chambers were arrested at Penang Airport in Malaysia carrying 179 grams of Heroin. A crime which in Malaysia carries a mandatory sentence of death... Dadah Is Death (A Long Way From Home) is the true story of Barbara Barlow's desperate attempt to save her son from the Hangmans rope - a courageous effort that involved impassioned pleas to President Reagan, The British Prime Minister, and even the Pope. By July 1986 this international struggle had seemed to reach a hopeless conclusion and all that was left was a mother's love for her son. Written by
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** I don't know if anyone will ever see this telemovie again. Who knows where it has disappeared to. But just in case there are *SPOILERS* ahead.
I remember the events behind this film very well. I recall looking at my watch waiting for my bus at the exact time that the two convicted drug smugglers were due to be falling thru the gallows trap door....7am Sydney time. It is the dramatised true story of two Australian men caught, tried and convicted for heroin smuggling in Malaysia in the mid '80's. One is entitled to think that they got their just deserts, as many did.
However the film shows them to be real people and despite their crimes, it demonstrates that once you start to get to know someone's character it becomes difficult to conveniently pigeon hole them under "Criminal", "dreg of society" or whatever. Also demonstrated is how the Malaysian Government were determined to use the case as a show trial, to prove to the West that they were indeed independent and not afraid to execute westerners. All appeals for clemency fall on politically astute but humanely deaf ears.
The acting is very good, Hugo Weaving who has gone from strength to strength since this is the more urbane, professional drug smuggler Chambers inadvertently caught by police because his accomplice, Barlow, gives himself away at airport security by being nervously suspect. John Polson as Kevin Barlow makes him believable,a likable, harmless rascal. Barlow was in reality a drug addicted semi down and out.
The movie belongs to Julie Christie portraying his working class English born mother, fighting like a tigress for her son. I remember seeing the real Mrs Barlow on television and Ms Christie does her justice, which is the best accolade I can give for an extraordinary display of acting. She IS Mrs Barlow, a most memorable woman. Victor Banerjee is also good as the men's defence lawyer Karpal Singh. But I expected him to be expert having seen him directed by David Lean who knew talent when he saw it. And yes, that is Sarah Jessicah Parker playing an American romantic pen pal to Kevin Barlow.
The movie uses flashbacks and follows the meanderings of the case to it's conclusion and then contrives to leave on an upbeat note. One that does not go astray in a story that shows that some countries still use people's barbaric deaths for their own political ends rather than simple justice.
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