This is the first Australian film in a long time to be built upon a first rate script, beautiful dialogue, absolutely exemplary direction, wonderful cinematography, first class set dressing, and good costuming and casting.
Others have reviewed this film, some have praised it, some have called it good, some, alas have canned it as a failure. Too many have analysed the story as sad, even depressing, others have claimed that it is a drama with comedic moments etc.
Last Cab to Darwin is a drama, no drama can function well, without the essential comic relief, and this is no exception, but let me say that here is a film that takes no account of contrived entertainment, neither does it preach, or dictate moral terms; Last Cab to Darwin simply tells a story, and stories within that story, via fine direction, one of the best scripts, and some of the finest dialogue ever recorded in this country.
The direction is sensitive and well paced, and there is evidence of the actors actually having been directed and shepherded by a director with a real knowledge of the craft and process of acting.
Michael Caton is fine as Rex, and he deserves every accolade that has been thrown his way, but having watched his work for more than 35 years, I know that he can at times show a tendency to overplay, especially when the character is driven by deeply felt or complex intent; yet here he is restrained, almost underplaying at times, but always compelling and moving.
The support cast is largely divine, some critics have accused Mark Coles Smith of overplaying, this is absolute nonsense from critics who know nothing of good acting or screen work, Mr Coles Smith is wonderful, a kind of indigenous James Dean, whose character of Tilly is at various times frightening, amusing, endearing, wise, foolish, enigmatic, and utterly charming.
Ningali Lawford is quite breathtaking, as she drives her character Polly, moving so smoothly from harsh and angry via practical, warm, funny and heartbreaking, to tender, vulnerable and deeply loving.
Emma Hamilton keeps a firm controlling hand on her wonderful characterisation of Julie, the UK backpacker and nurse, who takes charge of Rex in his final phase. With only a couple of exceptions, the lesser supporting roles are fine, and for once, directorial attention has been given to even the smallest of roles (I mention this because it is all too often that Australian directors lavish time and screen time only on the leads, and leave the rest of the cast to their own devices) Last Cab to Darwin is a fine film, better than that, it is a masterpiece of theatrical screen production.
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