Given the vastness of their country, it comes as no surprise that Australians are as obsessed with road movies as Americans are. ”Last Cab to Darwin” is a typical entry in that genre: full of sun, beer, and the restless souls found along the highway.
Our main voyager is Rex (Michael Caton), a grizzled cab driver on the other side of 70. He plies his trade in the former mining town of Broken Hill, in the dusty Outback.
Tough place. If you saw the re-release of the grueling 1971 Aussie film “Wake in Fright” a couple of years ago, that was shot in the vicinity.
The laid-back life suits him: a little work, a lot of drinking with the boys in the evenings. Now and then he and Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf), the indigenous woman who lives across the street, share a pleasant night together.
A cancer diagnosis leads Rex to a rash decision. He’s only got a few months left, it seems, and he’s heard about a death-with-dignity doctor (Jacki Weaver, from “Silver Linings Playbook”) campaigning for assisted suicide.
She lives far, far away in another part of Australia, and Rex really has never strayed far from Broken Hill. These are the ingredients of a good old-fashioned road trip.
The people Rex meets along the way include a fast-talking young con man (Mark Coles Smith) and a British nurse (Emma Hamilton). Rex has spent his life keeping his thoughts to himself, but that proves impossible when he has company like this.
“Last Cab” is co-written by Reg Cribb and director Jeremy Sims, and it hits familiar beats along the way. The lessons that get learned are pretty much what you’d expect — perhaps something about life being more about the journey than the destination, etc. etc.
Two aspects lift the film. One is the scenery, which includes both hard-bitten towns and eerie desert. This is a place to get lost, for sure.
The other is leading man Michael Caton, a veteran of Australian TV and movies. The lanky Caton radiates self-sufficiency and humor, and you instantly believe him as a cranky man of few words. Plus, he eloquently makes the case that road-tripping is not exclusively for the young.
“Last Cab to Darwin” (2½ stars)
A road movie from Australian about a septuagenarian cancer patient (Michael Caton) who drives his cab across the country to visit a death-with-dignity doctor. Some familiar notes are hit, but the scenery and Caton’s laconic performance lift the film above average.
Rating: Not rated; probably R for subject matter
Showing: SIFF Film Center