Film review: Last Cab to Darwin (Australia, 2015)

last cab to darwin

BRISBANE’S finest and trendiest film buffs were present on the red carpet for the city’s premiere of the new film by director Jeremy Sims, Last Cab to Darwin, on Sunday night (12th July).

With Sims and star Michael Caton present at Dendy Portside in Hamilton, there was a buzz in the air to welcome what looked on paper to be a promising new addition to Australian film.

In a brief introduction to a packed house, Caton and Sims discussed making the film, with Caton joking about the quality of motor homes the actors and crew stayed in during their seven weeks on the road. “If you dropped the soap in the shower there was no way to pick it up,” he admitted, to peals of laughter.

Sims acknowledged the long process of getting the film funded and made, before Caton cajoled the audience with “If you enjoy the film tell your friends, and if you don’t, shut up!” Cue lots more laughter.

He needn’t have worried, though, as Last Cab to Darwin is an absolute corker of a movie, and can proudly take its place among the pinnacles of Australian film.

Michael Caton, Jeremy Sims (L-R)

Michael Caton, Jeremy Sims (L-R)

Caton plays Rex, a Broken Hill taxi driver, who, having been told he has stomach cancer and has but three months to live, sets off on an epic cross-country trip to Darwin to take advantage of the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws. In doing so, he leaves behind his sometime-lover and Indigenous neighbour, Polly (the wonderful Ningali Lawford-Wolf), and his mates, who like him, have never left town.

A touching story, told with humour, compassion and tact; Last Cab to Darwin is based on real-life Broken Hill man Max Bell, who was diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s.

Along the way, Rex not only confronts his fears about death, love, loneliness and family, but meets a range of characters who play a part in his choice of final destination and help him decide if what he is doing is right. Mark Coles Smith is exceptional in his role as Tilly, an Oodnagatta native who dreams of being a professional footy player but battles demons of his own, while Emma Hamilton is superb in her role as an English nurse who has a soft spot for Rex, and screen legend Jacki Weaver plays the Darwin doctor at the end of the line.

Caton, best known for his role as the lovable rogue Darryl Kerrigan in candidate-for-the-most-quotable-Aussie-movie-of-all-time The Castle, is a revelation in the lead role. Scenes which could have been brutal or harrowing are enriched with boyish charm and dry humour solely by his presence. He’s the type of actor who can say more with a flicker of his eyelids than many can in a series of lines, and this performance must be up there with his career best.

Music by Brisbane’s own Ed Kuepper and awe-inspiring wide shots of the inner-Australian landscape are the icing on this particular cinematic cake, meaning Last Cab to Darwin comes highly, highly recommended.

For Scenestr

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