An Aussie variation on Badlands teeming with desolation, beauty, fear, and the discord between youthful fantasies and grim realities, Last Ride (based on Denise Young's novel) charts Kev (Hugo Weaving) and his young son Chook's (Tom Russell) mysterious odyssey across Australia. Deliberately parsing out subtle clues to the crime from which Kev is fleeing, first-time director Glendyn Ivin conveys both facts and emotions with efficient brushstrokes (a spied glance, an offhand comment) that are matched by an understated, evocative lyricism. Be it the sight of his silhouetted protagonists lighting sparklers at dusk or of Chook huddled head-to-knees on a shimmering outback lake so shallow one can stand on its surface, Ivin's imagery has a somber poeticism in tune with his tale's bleak portrait of fury, regret, and painful maturation. As abusive bastard Kev, Weaving flashes just enough compassionate humanity to suggest his paterfamilias's caged-animal rage is driven at least in part by consuming guilt—a notion made too explicit by the film's ultimate revelations. Meanwhile, newcomer Russell, at once tough and vulnerable, canny and damaged, delivers a performance of nuanced naturalism that starkly conveys the sorrow and sacrifice that sometimes come with learning to achieve self-sufficiency. Nick Schager
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