If any one country has benefited immensely from the dawn of online streaming and on-demand, it would have to be the independent Aussie film industry. With government funding towards independent films, Aussie movies have enjoyed extensive coverage on services such as Netflix, exposing new viewers to the down under talents of Australian filmmakers and actors. One such example is the film, Last Ride.
Directed by Glendyn Ivin, and starring the phenomenal Hugo Weaving, Last Ride follows the story of a father on the run after committing a violent crime. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Denise Young, in which Max, the suspect, takes his son, Chook, with him on the journey – as we try to learn of the sins of the father through the eyes of the son.
The story takes the audience across bushland and outback highways, as Max endeavors to run from his past and find a safe place to live in hiding. But the central piece to the entire story is a man called Max (John Brumpton), and not only how he connects to both Kev and Chook as individuals, but to how they one by one see him and each other.
The plot is exceptional, and extremely strong in symbolism. There are a lot of elements in scenes (Chook’s fascination with a bull ant on a stick, as one example) that key into some traditional Aussie stories, and even some Aboriginal myths/legends in places; and these may be lost on some international viewers. However, there is another added layer of depth to the story that goes beyond these references, keying particular attention to the father/son bond, the power of choices, the dichotomy of good/evil, and so much more.
Killing and death are a recurring theme throughout Last Ride, but with specific emphasis on perspective and how we view and experience the significance of death throughout our lives – and how it impacts our growth as humans undergoing the trials as we come of age, and the pronouncements we make as we let go of elements of our innocence and childhood.
Coupled with the enriched depth of the story is the difficult relationship between the father and the son. There are a few scenes that are particularly difficult to watch, with Hugo Weaving’s Max character unleashing his darker violent side.
Max is not a very nice man, despite his efforts to be a better person and love his son, he is predisposed to a darker and explosive center that is the very reason they’re in this mess to begin with.
And yet at times, there are inspiring flashes that craft a smile on the viewer’s face; with closer elements between the two characters. There’s a dichotomy there that is significant, but its significance grows as we learn more about Max.
Hugo Weaving is always a delight on screen, but with him becoming so well known in blockbusters like The Matrix, The Wolfman, Transformers, and Lord of the Rings, it’s even more agreeable seeing him in an independent Aussie film – back in the types of films he started out in. You can tell he still feels comfortable in these indie flicks, he brings a passionate performance that is inspired and haunted, reflective and gritty.
Anita Hegh is tremendous as Maryanne in a role that is too short for the movie. Tom Russell is also wonderful in his debut film appearance as the young boy "Chook", son of Kev – his performance is touching and convincing and I would be expecting much in the future acting career of this young fella.
The camera work, and lighting, in Last Ride is topnotch. There are some stunning shots of locations that are breathtaking, especially in the outback rural areas. But the most important visual element from the movie is the sequence in which Kev and Chook are driving across Lake Gairdner – a considerable flat salt lake in Australia that is so visually mystifying and contextually poignant, it will become one of the most unforgettable moments you have EVER seen in a movie.
Last Ride is a remarkable viewing experience. There is a lot of depth to the story, and many will find this to be incredibly touching, relevant, and heartbreaking. The Lake Gairdner sequences are reason enough to see the film, and if not that, then Hugo Weaving’s penetrating and incredible performance. Watch this one as soon as you can.