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"Drink your beer and shut up" is the essence of male culture in
Australia. "Mateship" is the term for it. Rex, a 70 year old cab driver
from Broken Hill in New South Wales, finds as he must have already
felt for a long time - that mateship is a double edged sword. He is
diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and can't bring himself to tell
his friends or the woman he secretly loves. "There's no one else," he
tells his doctor. Instead he drives his cab 2,000 plus miles across the
Australian outback to Darwin where there is a newly opened and
experimental euthanasia clinic. "Why," asks the woman who might have
been his wife "did you not tell me?!" "You never asked," answers Rex,
matter-of-factly. Rex has never seen the sea, among other things, and
his eyes are opened to new scenery and people. His nearness to death is
an opportunity to reassess his life and, like Odysseus, for adventure.
While much of the film is drama and serious in nature, it is also light-hearted. A mechanic tells Rex to keep his fluids up while driving in the desert, and Rex promptly goes into the bar for beer. One theme is the plight of Australia's aborigines. Whites took away much of their culture and stories, and as a result, who they are. The acting is really wonderful, especially the lead who is a veteran of Australian films and television and well-loved for such roles for his entire life. I love the ornate and wonderful arts and crafts homes as well as the scenery of Australia. The film is loosely based on a true story. The only real drawbacks are that it is somewhat predictable and short. Seen at the Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Caton, a locally well known Australian actor in his early 70s
totally looks and acts the part of cancer-stricken cab driver Rex from
Broken Hill searching for a possible way out in Darwin, nearly 2,000
kilometres away. He produces a rivetingly strong performance that tells
a challenging story really well.
If you've never seen the Australian outback or met a few of its characters, this isn't a bad place to start.
Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Rex's neighbour Polly is just wonderful, and I wish more time had been devoted to their relationship, because the conflicts, challenges and unspoken reserve that underpinned the subtleties of this part of the tale deserved more. Emma Hamilton as Julie, a backpacker from London working at the Daly Waters pub shone in the subtle sensitivity of her character. Tilly, a young indigenous man and fellow traveller didn't convince with the clichéd predictability of his dialogue and actions, but provided some funny moments and several useful plot components. Jackie Weaver as pioneering GP Dr Nicole Farmer (which I understand was loosely based on real life Dr Philip Nitshke) was an unconvincing let down. No doubt she helped the bankability of the film, but was probably not the best actor for the role.
But the total package provides a really thought provoking and surprisingly uplifting view of aspects of life we tend to shun, with Michael Caton and the Australian outback the prime contributors.
I thought this one of the best movies I have seen in a long, long time and up there with the Castle and the Dish. I thought the acting throughout good and especially Michael Caton and the actor who played Tilley who I found to be a lovable rogue. The story line was sad, but was very thought provoking when thinking about and discussion euthanasia. All in all I really enjoyed the story and especially loved seeing the outback of Australia. I cried a lot but I also laughed a lot and would recommend this movie to any age (except children of course) and hope that many people go to see it. I also hope that it is up there when the movie award come out.
Michael Caton has been a fixture on Australian screens since the 1970's thanks to TV shows like 'The Sullivans' and 'Packed to the Rafters'. His voice is quintessentially Aussie and his face and personality have made him a household name. His casting for this film is perfect and I can't even imagine another actor as Rex; so perfect is Caton, and such a gift for an actor who has mostly been the family uncle or grandad. Here he is, front and centre; stoic, three dimensional and instantly likable. Director Jeremy Sims, himself a TV and film actor, has elicited an award worthy performance from the veteran, but also helps young actor Mark Coles Smith as Tilly, make one of the year's best supporting turns. The camera just loves his wicked grin and his playful, easy charm. The film pulls no punches with some of the content surrounding both the indigenous characters such as Tilly, or the circumstances and realities of euthanasia. I was disappointed with Jacki Weaver here: she never looks or sounds comfortable with her character, and that is unfortunate as it is a linchpin to the film's trajectory, but Caton's 'Rex' is so unforgettable, that he carries even the weaker elements of the movie. Beautifully photographed and capturing the visceral parts of the landscape and the terrain, 'Last Cab To Darwin' is not a perfect film, but an enjoyable and significant one, and a rewarding one for its leading actor.
One of the great Australian success stories of a very profitable 2015
for local films, Jeremy Sims Last Cab to Darwin scored over 7 million
dollars in local box office receipts this year and garnered an equal
share of critical and audience good will that will likely see it become
a staple in collections of local film lovers for years to come.
Adapting Reg Cribb's successful stage play of the same name and casting Australian identity Michael Caton in the role that he portrayed in that very play, Sims has done a fine job at transplanting a play into a feature length film and his capturing of the dusty plains of outback Australia as Caton's dying cab driver and lonely soul Rex heads off on a road trip from South Australia's Broken Hill to Darwin is one of the films highlights.
But it's not all smooth sailing for Sim's as he finds trouble maintaining momentum in the film which starts off particularly strong and engaging but through a misguided and cliché ridden final act loses stem, particularly with a bunch of side characters that feel slightly underdeveloped and also far to "movie like" to feel real.
Caton delivers what could well be his finest ever moment as Rex a man we come to care for in a short period of time and Caton's experience with both comedy and drama serve him well as he balances a nice line between humour and pathos. Rex's journey (which is supposedly based around some true events) feels real and emotion filled but with the film itself set up for a 2 hour long trip, Rex's ride to be euthanized before cancer slowly kills him gets filled with Mark Coles Smith's (who sadly overplays) lost young man Tilly and Emma Hamilton's English ex-pat Julie's loving nurse and both these characters while at moments help the film along also take a little too much away from the film and it would've been nice to have seen them play smaller roles and Sims to have had more faith in Caton to carry the film along as he was seemingly more than up to the task.
One of the better feel good (and sad) Australian movies in some time, The Last Cab to Darwin would be an incredibly hard films to dislike and while it never breaks out into being an undeniably standout classic, its deserving of its warm reception and likely long standing place in the hearts of Australian movie goers that found themselves investing in this likable tale of one man's journey to find himself in world that seemingly passed him by.
3 ½ cat trees out of 5
What a terrific film on all levels. It's been released for a few weeks
now, but drew a reasonable sized crowd on a Sunday night on the back of
strong press reviews. I think it's going to continue to pull in crowds
on the strength of word of mouth recommendations. Including mine.
Generally I'm not a fan of Australian films but this one is great. Starting with the cast. Michael Caton was excellent and had surprising depths in his performance that I never expected him to have. The only weak link in the cast is Jackie Weaver, despite having "Academy Award Nominee" forever attached to her name now. Even though many of the support cast were not well known actors, only Weaver's acting was poor. She looked like "I'm acting this" with nearly every line she delivered. The young guy who played Tilly was fantastic - and surprisingly convincing in his one emotionally vulnerable scene.
Secondly, the script. I heard one radio reviewer say that the dialogue by 'blackfellas' in movies is usually very obviously written by white writers, and rarely rings 'true'. Similarly, writers who want to shoehorn Australian colloquialisms into a movie or stage play often do it in a very clumsy way. But in Last Cab to Darwin, the dialogue does ring true and the writers are to be congratulated.
Next, the themes. This is not a 90 minute 'quickie' of a movie. It has real depth, not just on the issue of euthanasia, but also on black/white prejudices in country Australia, and the movie doesn't skirt around indigenous social problems either.
Then there's the scenery. Spectacular. And I bet the places featured along Rex's road trip enjoy an upturn in visitor numbers in the next year or so as a result of this film.
Finally there's the humour. It is quintessentially Australian dry humour and it's quick and subtle and sprinkled throughout. The best line is the one about the dog's name. Still making me chuckle even now - as much as anything because you didn't see it coming at the time and Michael Caton's delivery was perfect.
As Molly Meldrum would say: do yourself a favour and go and see it.
I actually signed up to IMDb just to write this review. Having stumbled
upon this film by accident, I couldn't have been more moved. Michael
Caton delivers an Oscar worthy performance that had me in tears
throughout. In fact the entire cast deliver a completely immersive
experience that transported me to the Australian outback, in particular
the actors who played Polly and Tilly.
And there is no doubt the performances would have shone so brightly without an incredible script. The story is one of both joy and sadness and despite the fact I hate to cry I just could not stop watching.
I am a huge fan of the film Australia because of the incredible scenery, which is partly why I decided to give this (which I heard nothing about) a try. I was not disappointed. Everything about this film is beautiful.
I saw this film yesterday, choosing it over both "Fantastic Four" and
"The Man from UNCLE" and it was a good choice. The trailer - which I
saw on tube - only gives you the basic scenario of the film, but NOT
what it's about. I have to admit I chose it because it featured Michael
Caton, who was also in another classic Aussie film *The Castle*. He,
and the other actors in this film have been cast really well. I
particularly like Ningali Lawford-Wolf as Polly, and Mark Coles Smith
The film made me laugh and cry, partly because it tapped into my own family history, But I loved the background to this story - the red and greens of the outback, the houses with tin roofs and rock fences - they remind me of Kalgoorlie where I lived at an early age . Also the film, which is based on a play by Reg Cribb, doesn't shy away from social issues that won't go away, but is ultimately uplifting in what it says.
A widely recognised characteristic of Australian film is our capacity
to find humour in almost any subject. When people from other places try
to describe our national character, they use words like larrikin,
irreverent, or iconoclastic, meaning we like to laugh at ourselves and
the sacred cows in our patch. So how do you laugh at dying, let alone
make an Aussie comedy out of a road film that has euthanasia as its
Aussie icons Michael Caton and Jackie Weaver provide the larrikin mix of gravitas and humour needed to make a deadly serious issue bearable as we share the journey and the end-of-life issues facing the terminally ill cab driver Rex. He has never been outside Broken Hill and must drive 3,000 kms to Darwin to be the first person who is legally assisted to die by Weaver who plays a feminine version of Dr Death (as euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke was called). Like in all road films, he crosses iconic landscapes and encounters bad things. He also meets some beautiful characters like the Pommie backpacker Julie who becomes his nurse, a mischievous Aboriginal Peter Pan-type called Tilly, and Polly, the Aboriginal neighbour and secret lover he left behind but calls regularly. The back story of our nation's inept relationship with the traditional owners of our land frames much of Rex's journey, just as it continues to frame our evolving national identity.
While it is an entertaining Aussie yarn, that's not its only purpose. Superb acting by Caton in particular brings you up close and very personal to the emotional and practical challenges of picking a time and place to die with dignity. The film can get heavy-handed in the way it loads political and moral messages into the story; for example, when Tilly yells at Rex "You think its brave to let someone else do your dying for you?" we are confronted with different ways of looking at assisted dying. Rex makes it to Darwin only to find medical and legal confusion, so things do not turn out as expected. For some, it's a distracting edit to have Rex back home in minutes when it took half the film to get there, but perhaps this reflects the truncation of time when the time has come. Be warned: this is a film that can mess with your head about the complex issue of assisted dying, but it's an Aussie gem well worth the effort.
Last Cab to Darwin. Making "The Best of Fest" list at the Palm Spring International Film Festival, this touching film out of Australia follows Broken Hill taxi driver (Rex - Michael Caton) who spends his days in transporting locals to and from, his nights drinking beers with his buddies (excellent character actors John Howard, David Field and Alan Dukes), and occasionally ending his evenings with his aboriginal neighbor Polly (star is born: Nignali Lawford). When he learns he has terminal cancer, he leaves everything behind and embarks on 1,865 mile road trip to meet a doctor (the always terrific Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook) who has an euthanasia machine. Ready to face the end on his own, his road trip forces him to live outside of his box, as he picks up a cheery hitchhiker (the very funny Tilly - Mark Coles Smith) and bar maid/nurse (Julie - Emma Hamilton). Director Jeremy Sims, along with cinematographer Steve Arnold, beautifully capture the outbacks appeal and desolation. While Caton, Lawford, Smith and Hamilton are relative unknowns in the US, if this film obtains distribution they will quickly gain stateside recognition. This road trip movie covers plenty of issues, and what better place to work things out then on the road.
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