“We knew from really early on that we needed to do the trip, we had about 18 flat tyres – it was an extraordinary adventure.”
Last Cab to Darwin follows Rex (Michael Caton), a Broken Hill cab driver diagnosed with stomach cancer and given three months to live. Having never left his town, Rex volunteers to drive all the way to Darwin to be part of a new, controversial assisted dying procedure carried out by euthanasia advocate Dr Farmer (Jacki Weaver).
The producers, commenting at a Sydney Film Festival screening, explained their decision to film on the road itself, with most of Last Cab to Darwin taking place throughout the sparsely-populated 3,000 km stretch. The film benefits from its location choice; Rex’s chance encounters with locals and travellers being among the film’s most enjoyable moments.
An atypical road trip movie, Last Cab to Darwin cleverly taps into an Australian brand of humour rarely replicated in such fine form, frequently featuring heart-warming and humour-filled moments in the face of bleak despair or even near certain death. An extraordinary pathos subsumes so much of this film, uplifting moments and meaningful interactions with other characters frequently eliciting themselves from Rex’s decision to drive somewhere to end his life.
Letting the film down in no small part is an excessively-long third act with overly-wrought complications, taking its time to lead into a touching finale. The trip itself was thoroughly engaging, with the sub-stories of Rex’s late hodgepodge of travelling buddies (Mark Coles Smith and Emma Hamilton) proving as interesting as Rex’s own mission. A road trip movie with a road trip that ended prematurely, the film’s appeal can almost entirely be attributed to Caton’s charm and his chance meetings with a motley crew of souls along the way.
Not getting too bogged down in the mechanics of the euthanasia debate, Last Cab to Darwin keeps the focus on its characters, leaving us with a quintessentially Australian, affectionately funny and at times very moving inversion of the road trip genre.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Last Cab to Darwin
Director: Jeremy Sims
Australia, 2015, 123 mins
Sydney Film Festival