When in 2002, Cracker Bag, Glendyn Ivin’s charming little suburban short film won the Cannes Prix for short fiction, it seemed a feature, and probably a big budget number at that, would follow immediately.
But Ivin is thoughtful as well as stylish, so it’s taken this long to see his first ‘big’ movie on the screen.
The wait was more than worth it.
In Last Ride, he’s taken the great, archetypal great outback road trip to the end of the metal, in this dark yet haunting tale of a father and son who both love and hate in alternation: yet in the end take the trip right down the line.
Last Ride is full of glorious images of the Australian bush, from petrol bowser to desert, gum tree lined creeks to salt flats.
It’s an epic visually (Greig Fraser’s camerawork should win this year’s ACS award after the fairy floss of the Luhrman-isation of a cardboard Australia) and the whole drive thus seems like the ultimate road trip in the way the Bill Bennett’s little Film Noir Kiss or Kill did a few years ago.
A (not really) reformed crim, Kev (Hugo Weaving), is taking off for the sunny edges of the horizon for a weird sort of male bonding expedition with his bright-eyed smart ten-year-old Chook (Tom Russell).
And, to be fair, that’s about all the plot there is in this rambling road yarn, but the stakes are terribly high and a sense of doom seems to hover like a cloud above the embattled couple of scrappers as they whiz through the wide brown land.
This strange rite of passage begins with an endless bus ride from Port Augusta, heading from one urban desert to the salty edges of the world, it seems.
They briefly pause to stay with Kev’s one time lover, Maryanne, who wants more but has – as always – to settle for so much less.
As the two move on, interspersed with moments of violence and made joyless by Kev’s inarticulate love that is as likely to express itself with a whack as a hug, the stakes rise inexorably higher.
Sparse with words, tightly directed and with outstanding work from the two leads, this is the finest local film of the year so far and certainly Weaving’s best work yet.
And as we travel with Kev and Chook deeper into a sun bathed heart of darkness, Last Ride becomes so much more than a road movie and all the more powerful for restraint mixed with moments of sudden, terrifying violence.
Heartbreaking, and a truer comment on the ‘manly’ ideal Ocker bloke than a thousand warbling bush ballads or Baz’s cake decorator fantasies, Last Ride is a model of what can be achieved with restraint and a loving attention to the hard business of loving.