Veteran Australian actor Michael Caton takes on a role that fits him like a glove, as “Rex” a broken man in a broken down part of the Australian outback, ironically named “Broken Hill”.
“Rex” ferries his regulars around in his old station wagon, keeping the towns secrets as he drives around. He then unwinds by drinking with his down at heel mates at the local watering hole, one of the few he is not barred from entering.
His joshes with his mates and then stumbles home, occasionally falling into bed, or not, with his neighbour “Polly” (Lawford Wolf). This arrangement suits both but is not generally talked about much during daylight hours.
There is no plot spoiler to advise that Rex is not well, he realises his time will come soon and decides he wants to die with some dignity. The opportunity for euthanasia is generally not available in Australia but the film suggests a brief opportunity in Darwin, where a Dr Farmer (Jacki Weaver) may be able to help.
“Rex” decides this is something he needs to do and therefore sets out on a odyssey across the barren Australian outback to draw a close to his suffering. What he finds is by deciding to end his life, he may just find a way to live it.
Along the way he meets colourful characters including a “Tilley” (Mark Coles Smith), who makes an impression and carries the story along. Smith is a great find, acting like he really is enjoying himself and yet packs a punch in his emotional scenes.
As you would expect Jones does not disappoint, he is all beat up, used up and ready to fade away. Whether he gets his wish or even a last hurrah is the subject of the film, which deals with a sensitive subject in a gentle, poignant but intelligent way.
The film is let down by some rather unlikely plot twists and some rather weak acting from a couple of characters especially Weaver who really does appear to be reading off a card. Rex’s mates are fun and wholly believable, stuck in a rut a mile wide but with hearts of gold and far more “accepting” than maybe Rex gives them credit for.
There is a underlying illustration of the casual racism still in evidence, especially as you move away from the the more populated areas. The causes and remedies for which are far to complex to discuss here but it is brave for a film to make these so front and centre and make no apologies for the content.
Based on the stage play by Reg Cribb, itself based on a true story.
Overall a film worth watching, arguably not quite as it good as it could have been, with a sharper script and better casting for some roles.
Bleak, barren and downbeat but hiding a real heart of gold which ultimately makes the film uplifting despite some annoying shortcomings