“A slow yet heart-warming ride to finding reasons for living.”
A salt-and-pepper taxi driver dying of stomach cancer embarks on a road trip in Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin. Adapted from Reg Cribb’s stage play of the same title, this low-key heart-warming road drama offers universal lessons on loneliness, pain, anger, and love, as well as a breathtaking depiction of Australian rural lifestyle and culture.
Rex McRae (Michael Caton) is an aging loner who has never left the mining town of Broken Hill. He lives alone with his dog named Dog and his collection of vinyl records. Other than driving his taxi around town, he spends his time frequenting the local pub with his best buddies – Simmo (John Howard), Col (Alan Dukes), and Dougie (David Field). Unknown to everyone, Rex shares romantic moments with Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf), an aboriginal woman who lives across the road. Occasionally, they surreptitiously hold hands while sipping their morning cup of beer in Rex’s porch.
However, a doctor’s diagnosis reveals that Rex has only three months to live because of stomach cancer. Incidentally, he hears Dr. Nicole Farmer (Jacki Weaver) on a radio discussing of a self-assisted suicide she is attempting to have legalized. Promptly, Rex packs up and drives 2,000 miles to Dr. Farmer’s clinic in Darwin. After his windshield is smashed along his journey, indigenous drifter Tilly (Mark Coles Smith) joins his cross-country trip to pursue his own dreams, as well as London-based-nurse-turned-backpacker Julie (Emma Hamilton) who offers to take care of him. Upon arriving at their destination, Rex makes an eleventh-hour realization and surprises the people he cares about with his decisions.
Last Cab to Darwin is an intriguing portrayal of people and places. It is a slow, deliberate ride but a worthy one. Conversations dominate most of the film and the actors are adept in their individual roles. Caton, with his massive beer belly and endearing brusqueness, carries Rex in natural and effortless manner. He is mostly tacit but everytime he churns a word, there is such command and power. Smith complements him as the garrulous and aimless Tilly. Their exchanges keep the movie dynamic and appealing.
The film is quite unsympathetic with the issue of euthanasia. It treats the subject in a scientific and detached way. Weaver is custom-fitted as Dr. Palmer. Her glassy eyes and uncaring demeanors personify her own clinical treatment. Lawford-Wolf is her exact opposite; she has so much vigor, passion, and life as Polly. Her nags are a little irritable in the beginning but her secret sweet moments with Rex are tender, touchy and rousing.
The location and camera works suited the film’s themes. The dusky photography very well captures the natural charm and isolation of bush towns and rural communities. The slow scores also add up extra melancholy.
Last Cab to Darwin is a comic yet sensitive film about euthanasia. The characters are as authentic as its organic locations. There is a beautiful marriage of the two that watching the movie is a relaxing joyful ride.
Production: Pork Chop Productions
Cast: Michael Caton, Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Mark Coles Smith, Emma Hamilton, David Field, John Howard, Alan Dukes, Jacki Weaver
Director: Jeremy Sims
Writers: Reg Cribb, Jeremy Sims
Producers: Greg Duffy, Lisa Duff, Jeremy Sims
Executive producers: Ned Lander, Andrew Myer, Edward Simpson, Mark Nelson, Michael Burton, Ian Darling, Jon Adgemis, Prue MacLeod, Chris Cuffe, Natasha Cuffe
Director of photography: Steve Arnold
Production designer: Clayton Jauncey
Editor: Marcus D’Arcy
Costume designer: Jane Johnston
Composer: Ed Kuepper