Last Cab To Darwin: Film Review
Cast: Michael Caton, Jacki Weaver, Emma Hamilton, Mark Coles Smith
Director: Jeremy Sims
Based on the stage play, Last Cab To Darwin, which is inspired by a true life story of an Aussie cabbie, is the story of Broken Hill cab driver Rex (The Castle and Packed to the Rafters star Michael Caton).
Wearied with stomach cancer and told he has only three months to live, Rex decides to head 3000kms to Darwin to meet a Northern Territories doctor, Dr Farmer, who's slap bang in the euthanasia debate thanks to her new machine, to help him to die.
Packing up his scant belongings and leaving behind Dog, his dog (so-called because Rex was already taken), Rex sets out across the red roads to his fate. But along the way, he meets an aimless Aborigine called Tilly (Beneath Hill 60 actor Mark Coles Smith) as the pair head to Darwin.
Mixing up racism, indigineous issues, cancer, and holding mawkish tendencies at arm's length is not an easy job, but this Aussie film manages it with a degree of aplomb but hobbles itself in the final strait by choosing to avoid the meatier issues raised within.
The euthanasia issue is more a side-serving story line than a full on catalyst for discussion, this is a gentle film that skews older and that's squarely about Rex and the two people he meets as the journey goes on.
Which is probably a good thing, given that Caton is nothing short of eminently watchable and continually dignified as the battler who's your everyday Aussie bloke - the opening sequence shows Rex hobbling home half cut from the pub, making a spam sandwich and falling asleep in his chair, a taciturn nod to most of the hell-raisers in the audience and the ravages of old age. But in among the mournfully reflective start, the craggy yet relatable Caton sets the tone early on and emerges with granddad-like gravitas at the end.
For the most part, subtlety is the poignant film's raison d'etre - and that's also perhaps its weakness.
Rex's relationship with an indigenous neighbour is deftly hinted at early on, with scenes that reek of nuance and ripple with society still struggling to reconcile races.
But it's Coles Smith as the drifter Tilly who adds the fire to Rex's road trip, throwing in a volatile mix that is as thrilling as it is predictable - his live wire performance coupled with Caton's more restrained touch make this partnership ascend from the levels of cliche you'd expect. Coupled with some truly gorgeous scenery (the reds of the dust roads and the blue of the skies leap off the screen), this is a road trip to wallow in in parts.
However, the emotional ride goes on a little too long in places, runs out of steam in the final stretches and Weaver's Doctor seems ill-adjusted to the film, with her behaviour seeming out of sorts for someone in her position.
You could easily argue that the real crux of the debate of euthanasia is sidelined in favour of cliched story contrivances and beats in Last Cab To Darwin, but this tale of waifs and strays in the Aussie heartland is likely to easily resonate with the older crowd as one man's twilight is elegantly explored.