It was the name ‘Michael Caton’ that initially attracted me to this new Aussie flick. That and the fact that there aren’t many contemporary productions about ‘The Hill’, and this one promised the possibility of a visual tour across some of the most spectacular, yet little visited, country in our vast continent.
Ever since I, in common with so many others, delighted in The Castle and Caton’s role as Darryl, the patriarch of the Kerrigan family, the presence of this thoughtful, experienced professional was sufficient to entice me to see Last Cab to Darwin. And the lead role of Rex required all of Caton’s sensitivity to credibly portray the character that, for two hours, is rarely off the screen.
Derived from an even longer 2003 stage play, also written by Reg Cribb, the script has been tightened and several characters added. All the cast is excellent with outstanding performances from Ningali Lawford-Wolf as Polly and Mark Coles Smith as Tilly, and strong deliveries from Jackie Weaver as the Darwin doctor championing voluntary euthanasia and Emma Hamilton as Julie, the English back-packing nurse.
Although Rex embarks on a heroic ‘last journey’, this is anything but a conventional ‘road’ movie. Diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, this fiercely independent and pragmatic loner believes he can end his life with dignity in Darwin. The Northern Territory was about to legalise voluntary euthanasia and when Rex reads this in the paper, he determines to pack-up and drive his cab the 3000-plus kilometres across some of the most inhospitable country. Along the way he meets a diverse array of characters, two of whom, Tilly and Julie, become his travelling companions to Darwin.
Variously described as a ‘drama–comedy’ or a ‘biopic’, Last Cab to Darwin is all of these and more. Despite the serious core subject of Rex’s diagnosis, and the fact that it’s based on a real-life taxi driver, Max Bell, who in the early 1990s sought to avail himself of the new Northern Territory legislation, this film is leavened with some marvellous dry Aussie humour.
But, be warned, it doesn’t shy away from accurately portraying the isolation of the outback and the racial relations in country towns, flies and all.
Go and see this marvellous Australian production and then tell all your friends. But warn them, not about the language, but to take a box of tissues. Last Cab to Darwin can be pretty poignant but it definitely has the vibe.
Why not watch the trailer?