Death is the unusual macguffin in director Jeremy Sims’s Last Cab to Darwin, a sentimental road drama that reflects the real-world effects of cancer: pain, anger, withdrawal, and isolation.
With the recurrence of his stomach cancer, Australian taxi driver Rex (Michael Caton) is told by his doctors he has just three months to live. Unwavering in his desire to avoid hospitalization, Rex is quickly enticed by the recently legalized option of assisted suicide being advocated and administered by one Dr. Farmer (Jacki Weaver), whose face appears on every device Rex owns. With Dr. Farmer hundreds of miles away, and political forces seeking to overturn the ruling on this controversial procedure, Rex readies his cab, makes a public announcement of his deadly intentions, and abandons his local drinking buddies and indigenous lover Polly (an irascible but warm Ningali Lawford-Wolf) for a trip across a bleak Aussie desert reminiscent of The Road Warrior.
The script, adapted by Sims from a Reg Cribb play, features a number of plot contrivances, particularly regarding the all-too-handy passengers Rex accumulates on his drive (Mark Coles Smith, Emma Hamilton). Sims imbues his characters with rich thought and heart, particularly in regards to the understated, racially complicated, on-again/off-again relationship between Rex and Polly. Cinematographer Steve Arnold captures the natural beauty of remote Australia in dozens of locations bathed in mesmerizing sunsets.
These bush towns and desert landscapes are teeming with unique wildlife (mainly inescapable clouds of flies) and characters who might be at home in an old-time saloon. Meanwhile, the ever-present guitar score by Ed Kuepper is poignant, moving, and overflowing with the desolate hope that pushes Rex forward.
Last Cab to Darwin
Directed by Jeremy Sims
First Run Features
Opens June 10, Cinema Village