Last Cab to Darwin

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Last Cab to Darwin

Broken Hill taxi driver Rex (Michael Caton) tends to keep to himself. His relationship with his neighbour Polly (Ningali Lawford) is kept at arms length and his mates down the pub are just people he has a drink with. So when he’s told his cancer has returned and he only has weeks to live, he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. But something that is a big deal is the passing of euthanasia laws in the Northern Territory, and when he hears about it on the radio he figures he’d rather die on his own terms rather than fade away. So he sets off for Darwin in his taxi, picking up knockabout mechanic Tily (Mark Coles Smith) and holidaying nurse Julie (Emma Hamilton) along the way. But having himself put to death isn’t going to be as easy as knocking on a doctor’s door…
Despite taking full advantage of the outback landscape Rex travels through, this retains the confined feel of its stage play origins, especially when it comes to the issue of euthanasia, and while the message here is a relatively subtle one – that often it can be loneliness that leads terminally ill people to look for a way out – it’s a blunt message nonetheless. It doesn’t shy away from Australia’s casual racism, nor the somewhat grim conditions found in the outback, and combined with Rex’s insular nature (which never quite conceals the pain he’s feeling, thanks to a solid performance from Caton) makes this fairly tough going in parts. Fortunately the mood lifts a little with the arrival of Tily. While both he and Julie are largely clichés the casts strong performances make the trio entertaining road companions. This is never really heart-warming viewing – it’s a film about a man who’s going to die, and the end result is never really in doubt – but it does have some interesting things to say along the way.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris