Kev (Hugo Weaving) is enjoying a beer by the river at sunset. He’s just had to leave behind items he wanted to purchase at a roadhouse because he didn’t have enough money. When his son Chook (Tom Russell) joins him the kid shows that he stole some sparklers from the shop. Kev smiles, they light the sparklers and play on a skateboard ramp as the sun goes down before settling down for the night in the car.
A beautiful scene with very little dialogue that shows father and son bonding exuberantly in a memorably unique way. Weaving is a jailbird and we’ve earlier got a sense from Kev’s awkwardness in talking to his son at times that they haven’t spent much time together.
Captured in silhouette in the day’s fading embers, the scene illustrates filmmaker Glendyn Ivin’s keenly poetic visual sense (aided by Greig Fraser’s ravishing cinematography) and his willingness to let the images do the talking where possible.
The gentle, Middle Eastern-inflected music score for this scene, by acclaimed oud (Arabic lute) player Joseph Tawadros, picks up a theme and mood established in an earlier scene where father and son broke into a small town’s Afghan Heritage Museum to stay the night.
Kev (Hugo Weaving) strips off by a billabong. He gets in the water and pulls the reluctant, fully clothed Chook (Tom Russell) in for an impromptu swimming lesson on an old and ruthless principle: learn how to swim, or else sink.
The scene shows the more harsh and brusque side of Kev’s relationship to his son. He seems to genuinely think that throwing Chook into deep water is a great way to teach him to swim, but his laughter at the boy’s distress appears cruel and insensitive. Kev regards it as doing the right thing, though – giving the boy a bit of tough love.
In a later scene the father and son will find another swimming hole, only this time Kev will react in a very different way. The two scenes form a pair that illustrate the hard-soft duality of Kev’s character and the development of their relationship.
Having evaded the police, Kev (Hugo Weaving) and Chook (Tom Russell) are driving across Lake Gairdner, a huge salt lake, in a stolen four-wheel drive. Kev has finally told the boy why they’re on the run. Chook sits for a few seconds in silence, taking in the news, before exploding in rage at his father. He yells that his uncle, Max, had been a ‘proper dad’ who looked after him. Stung by his words, Kev stops, pulls Chook out of the car and drives off across the lake, leaving the boy stranded.
Dramatically, this is where everything that has been hidden between son and father comes into the open – with explosive results. What Kev has just told Chook resolves the final part of the mystery of why they’re on the run. It brings Chook’s resentment of his Dad to a peak. His words deeply hurt Kev, which is why the latter acts so peremptorily.
This is a visually stunning scene, the blue sky and clouds reflected in the salt lake to create images unlike anything seen in Australian film before.