This week in movies you missed: It’s not easy to draw the line between a loving parent and an abusive one in this Aussie film.
What You Missed
Ex-con Kev (Hugo Weaving) and his 10-year-old son, Chook (Tom Russell), are homeless and trekking through the Australian outback. Chook’s mom isn’t in the picture and never has been. Where they came from and why they keep moving are things we learn gradually from TV news, flashbacks and a meeting with one of Kev’s old girlfriends, Maryanne (Anita Hegh).
As the journey takes them farther from civilization, Chook suspects his dad has hurt someone he cares about. He watches as Kev brutalizes people who get in their way, and sometimes he bears the brunt of that rage himself. But his dad can also be gentle and affectionate — wistful as he tells stories of Chook’s mother, patient as he teaches Chook to swim. Can Chook betray the only family he has?
Why You Missed It
Released in Australia in 2009, Last Ride played in two U.S. theaters earlier this year.
Should You Keep Missing It?
Perhaps you saw Beasts of the Southern Wild? A bleaker, more cynical version of that story from an older child’s perspective might look something like Last Ride, which is based on a Denise Young novel. First-time feature director Glendyn Ivin pairs stunning natural beauty, beautifully photographed, with one of the most disturbing parent-child dynamics ever put on film. It might all seem distanced, slow and arty (Ivin can’t resist showily pretty shots like one combining sparklers and a sunset), if not for the raw performances.
Hugo Weaving has played villains in so many American movies, from Agent Smith to six different nasty characters in Cloud Atlas, that moviegoers see him as the cartoon bad guy. Last Ride reminds us that he can also play, well, a really human and nuanced bad guy with a charming side. (For a fine better-guy performance by Weaving, see Proof , also showcasing an exceedingly dimply young Russell Crowe.)
As for young Russell, well, he just becomes this character. Chook is a survivor: adaptable, grimy and knowing beyond his years, though he seldom speaks. He reminds us how utterly ridiculous it is for Hollywood to style semiferal children like they came straight from a suburban soccer game (see the NBC show “Revolution” last Monday). Like most kids, Chook has accepted his parent’s view of the world as How Things Are, and the film traces the awakening of his independent moral consciousness in stark and terrible fashion.
Verdict: a walkabout on the dark side.
More New DVDs
360 (another “everything is connected” drama with Jude Law and Rachel Weisz)
“Copper,” season 1
Even the Rain (Gael Garcia Bernal in drama about filmmaking and politics set in Bolivia)
Fire With Fire (Crime thriller with Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis)
Hirokin: The Last Samurai (He lives on another planet!)
I Wish (The latest from acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Maximum Conviction (Steven Seagal, apparently still kicking ass)
Rites of Passion (1987 adult film directed by sex-positive crusader Annie Sprinkle)
Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton directs Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt in an unusual relationship triangle.)
Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)