July 5, 2012
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A tour-de-force turn from the persistently terrific Hugo Weaving lights a fuse under Last Ride, a spare and wrenching road movie delving into the complexities of a fraught father-son relationship. Against all odds, Weaving gives his violent career criminal, on the run from the law with his ten-year-old son, a touching humanity. Coupled with a slow-burn narrative tension and some truly stunning location shots of the South Australian outback, his front-and-center performance makes this a journey worth taking.
The debut feature from Glendyn Ivin, who won the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2003 withCracker Bag, feeds into a distinctly Australian mythology of the rambling man lost in a vast landscape. But its exploration of a troubled male psyche is universal.
Weaving’s emotionally damaged ex-con Kev struggles mightily with single parenthood and anger management. We’re introduced early to his explosive temper; detonations of rage hit random targets and there are numerous veiled references to people he has thumped.
As he and his young son, Chook (newcomer Tom Russell, holding his own), take furtively to the road—sleeping rough, stealing cars and pilfering food—the boy reveals a growing concern for the welfare of a man named Max.
Screenwriter Mac Gudgeon, working from Denise Young’s novel, allows the backstory to their fugitive status to trickle out slowly, with the focus on the pair’s unusual on-the-road bonding.
Kev is by turns cruel and disarmingly affectionate with the vulnerable little boy, as evidenced by a centerpiece swimming lesson at a remote water hole. But as his dad grows increasingly desperate, Chook becomes more apprehensive, leading him to a dreadful choice between loyalty to his father and his sense of what is right. This climactic scene plays out against one of the most indelibly dramatic backdrops in recent cinema—the weirdly alien landscape of a South Australian salt lake, just a few inches deep with a limitless horizon.
Greig Fraser’s widescreen lensing captures this, and the miles of breathtakingly diverse scenery that precedes it, to maximum effect, with Ivin picking out details to add small moments of poetry.
—The Hollywood Reporter