Monday, July 27, 2009

breaking the cycle

glendyn ivin is a man inspired & impassioned. an incredibly magnetic quality, it acts as a seductive pre-cursor to his work. just a superficial look at his production blog will reveal that this is so. he is the catalyst to why i have several “must-have” filmmaker bibles on current back-order… this was before last night when i finally saw his film, last ride.

an adaptation from denise young’s novel, the film has an inevitable finality almost from the very beginning when it is revealed why this unfit father & son duo are on the run. but it is the journey, not the fated destination, which matters in this film.

from the very start i could not shake the stylistic shadow of one of my all time favourite films: vincent ward’s debut film “vigil”: the degree of melancholy & beauty provide eerie echoes which invade one's very core similarly. kudos to ivin for allowing this to supplant my consciousness, his touch is light but similarly powerful. like a junkie, i still found myself wanting more on the cinematographic scope than the film ultimately served up. still, i am a glutton that way…

i had been spoilt knowing that the six week long outback trip which cast & crew undertook shooting this film [all outlined from the extensive website which is a veritable feast in itself]. everything that needs to be in here is, resulting in a succinct poignant story of gritty poetry & realism which cuts true to the bone. for a complete visual beauty fix, the lake eyre driving scene with reflected clouds which go on forever + spud’s roadhouse at sunset stole my soul.

kev is the quintessential “hard bastard father”, an archetypal man from the wrong side of the tracks who speaks with his fists but holds the admirable anti-authoritarian ideals of a repressed irishman denied an education who is still full of big ideas: “we can be whoever we want”. a man whose reliance on violence for answers has seen him spend a large chunk of his life behind bars doing time away from his ten year old son chook who desperately needs mothering & stability. together they set out in the dead of night on the road trip of their lives...

unshakeable images of pure heart-wrenching breath-taking poetry have to be watching the contradictory exhibition of the cycle of violence handed from one father to another in the raising of the son. in a role defining performance finally releasing hugo weaving from the indelible hold of the matrix’s mr smith, kev’s visible parenting conflict is grossly apparent as he struggles with doing “what is right” despite his awkward execution.

ultimately the burgeoning wisdom of the boy ask the big questions of the film & set in action the dichotomous battle between loyalty and betrayal. must he be damned as an outlaw & judged for the sins of the father perpetually? at what cost must innocence be lost?

as adaptable as iain bank's wasp factory wild sprite fending for himself, chook’s wavering moral code remains intrinsically true due to his need to feel love & experience intimacy in a safe environment personified by the protective empathy with a rabbit he shoots. this meditative journey acts as a beyond his year’s trajectory in dealing with kev: “what’s going to happen to us? when his father responds in a default “we’ll be alright”, the night falls silent on chook’s response: “but what if we’re not?”

chook’s acquisition of deep-rooted knowledge comes at a price. newcomer tom russell is what kubrick’s danny lloyd is to danny in the shining. no small praise indeed. he is chook. a steep learning curve of experiencing the cruel brashness from his father which mirror the lessons of kev’s own childhood are juxtaposed with displayed abject tenderness in this coming of age story for both father and son.

when the boy descends in halting trust to learn to swim in the heart of an arkaroo park billabong, our hearts are torn by his hapless battered body as he learns to float on his back which after mastering is proudly taught in a moment of paternal clarity that if he “gets into trouble you know you’ll be alright”. the lessons of the fathers no matter what they entail provide a legacy for life.

please see last ride in australia before the film & director get snapped up overseas. with an international premiere at the
toronto international film festival they are assured to.


  1. that's funny- I had, up until now, defined hugo weaving by the uncle role in Little Fish. That and Last Ride are my two favourite Australian films. A fact reinforced by Prime Mover at MiFF last night :P

  2. p.s. I cried like the wrong side of the tracks baby that I am when I saw this at SFF. Kev looks, acts, breathes EXACTLY like my dad circa 1996. Freaked the hell out of me, in the best possible way. This was my people treated with the gravity that all people deserve, and it shook me physically. Thanks Glendyn.