Directed by: Glendyn Ivin
Written by:Mac Gudgeon
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Tom Russell, Anita Hegh, John Brumpton, Sonya Suares, Kelton Pell
Released: July 2, 2009
Grade: A-

Six years ago, Australian filmmaker Glendyn Ivin won the best short film award at the Cannes Film Festival for Cracker Bag.  This is about as big as it gets for any budding filmmaker and Ivin’s win made headlines across the country.  To give the public an opportunity to see the film, it was shown in conjunction with screenings of Holes (a Disney flick starring Shia LaBeouf) in October 2003.  It was great exposure for Ivin and the world of short films.

Last Ride marks the feature film debut for Glendyn Ivin and it’s a wonderful, must-see Aussie drama.  A scruffy looking, middle-aged father (Weaving) and his 10-year-old son (Russell) are on a road trip in the Australian outback.  Their adventure is not one of choice however.  The father is on the run from the authorities and is looking for a place to lay low.  With no cash to their name, they steal whatever they can from petrol stations and unlocked cars and caravans.

The father and son have an awkward relationship which is difficult to put into words.  The film’s website describes it best when it uses the term – “beautiful and harsh”.  There are confronting scenes when the father taunts and beats his son.  These are contrasted with moments of love – scenes where they each try to make the other feel better about their worries and troubles.

This is the exact opposite of a Transformers-type movie.  Instead of satisfying the audience with special effects and explosions, this film does the job through great performances and a well-paced story.  It reminded me of Samson & Delilah (another top Australian release this year) given its setting, small cast and underlying message.  If you were a fan of Samson, then Last Ride is one to add to your calendar.

Hugo Weaving is terrific (as he always is) but it is youngster Tom Russell who you’ll find yourself talking about when exiting the cinema.  Not yet a teenager, I was stunned by the braveness and intensity of Russell’s performance.  Even more staggering is the fact that Last Ride is his feature film debut.

It’s been an astonishing year so for Australian cinema and this is another powerful film that has left a lasting impact.  With some striking shots of the remote outback, particularly those at Salt Lake, this is a memorable ride.