If death’s your destination, maybe re-think the trip?
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Last Cab to Darwin
RPL Film Theatre
A common complaint about English-language movies is that most of them are about young, straight, white dudes. Studios pander to YSWD tastes (five Transformers movies!?!?) because they think this demographic has most disposable income. Also, studios are sexist and racist.
The situation is changing, but not fast enough. Meanwhile, the rest of us — women, minorities, cranky middle-aged Chilean critics — tap our feet impatiently.
The low-budget Australian drama Last Cab to Darwin goes against the grain. The protagonist is an old man, Rex (Michael Caton), mildly content with his lot in life. Rex drives his taxi during the day, goes for beers with his friends after and spends his nights with Polly (Ningali Lawford), his Indigenous neighbour. Their relationship is secret because racism runs rampant in the country’s southernmost corner, and the resulting tension is at the heart of the movie.
When Rex learns he has terminal cancer his main concern is how long he’ll be able to drive his cab. He’s not one to let others take care of him, so when he hears euthanasia is about to become legal in Darwin, he departs on a cross-country journey to volunteer for the treatment.
The road forces Rex to re-examine his decisions — especially his choice to cut Polly out of his life.
Last Cab to Darwin is a tremendously humane film. While you’ll root for him, Rex is a bit of a jerk. He’s cantankerous and the value of his opinions about life are highly debatable. Polly isn’t a traditional leading lady either, and thank goodness — she’s far more intriguing than a size-zero flavor-of-the-month.
Two-time Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver is also in the mix as the doctor at the end of the road (not every Australian movie casts Weaver, but most do).
The euthanasia angle is a good framing device for the story, but despite that, the film doesn’t seem to have a strong opinion on the topic. Instead, Last Cab to Darwin saves its social commentary and criticism for the veneer of racism that seems to coat every interaction without ever being addressed directly.
Last Cab To Darwin isn’t perfect — the ending drags a bit. Still, it’s a journey worth taking.