Published Sep 18, 2009For the first half-hour, Last Ride feels like yet another bland, intentionally slow and generically "thoughtful" piece about abusive fathers and cyclic patterns of behaviour. Sadly, during this time, many folks walked out of the press screening, never discovering the genius of this slow build-up, as this low-key Australian film is so much more than a single caption and idea, fully-realizing an extremely complex father-son dynamic, damaging and painful but completely true. By the end, there weren't many dry eyes in the house.
Unfolding as a road movie, with white trash Kev (Hugo Weaving) cutting off his mullet in a gas station washroom while his ten-year-old son, Chook (Tom Russell), shoots at a rabbit with a BB gun, we understand that these two are on the run from the law, but for what we aren't sure. Eventually we learn that Max (John Brumpton), a family friend, is dead, which seems the likely source of the central dilemma.
As the pair travel cross-country, Kev flips between caring father, teaching his son how to swim and shoot a gun, and violent sociopath, beating the shit out of Chook when he plays with makeup, when not doling out unpredictable outbursts. Initially the child copes, assuming he deserves the berating, applying youthful logic and hoping for the best, but this gives way to profound apathy. A later scene in a gas station where Chook indifferently smashes shelves, steals goods and then emotionlessly eats potato chips while his father begs for an explanation may be one of the most heartbreaking moments captured on film in some time.
Little dialogue transpires, with scenes speaking for themselves, and fully realized characters inhabiting their station in life with completion. We understand that Kev just wants his son to "be a man," albeit in a severely backwards and horrifying manner, while Chook learns only, at too young of an age, that he is alone in this world. Much of the pain here comes from these good intentions gone wrong. (Talk Films)