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Last Ride (Glendyn Ivin, 2009)


So many small scale films over the last decade or two have attempted to create drama and wring tears by pairing a curmudgeonly or corrupted adult with a precocious child that the thought of watching yet another such movie inspires the rolling of oneís eyes. Last Ride, directed with careful attention to mood by Glendyn Ivin, manages to avoid the saccharine sentimentality that typifies this lamentable genre. Set in contemporary Australia, this intimate outdoors drama stars Hugo Weaving and newcomer Tom Russell as a father and son who aimlessly drift across the continent, in hopes of reaching some unclear, but clearly nefarious, destination that the father, Kev, has in mind. Ivinís film is tough-minded, making obvious the criminal nature of the fatherís past by the close of its first act, but it is not so hard boiled that it loses sight of the boyís potential corruption or his fumbling steps toward self-sufficiency. It develops with no small amount of tension, alternating tentative scenes of male bonding with those in which Kevís bad parenting skills are fully demonstrated as the pair rob homes or threaten one anotherís lives.


Judged moment to moment, Last Ride is a strong, lyrical work. It features some of the best cinematography in recent memory, with the desolate expanses of the Australian Outback as frequently serving as reflections of the young protagonistís emotional solitude as manifestations of his newfound freedom. Comparisons to another debut film, Terence Malickís Badlands, do Ivinís film no real favors, but they are not entirely off-base either. While somewhat more bound by plot (to its detriment) than Badlands, Last Ride aims for many of the same effects. That it succeeds in hitting the notes that it strives for more often than not is not to be discounted. If only the film were confident enough to be even more insular it might have been something truly special.


Still, Last Ride is a promising debut. While the basic premise of the film is something of a clichť, the execution is nuanced (at least until the somewhat forced conclusion) and the two lead performances are never less than convincing. Despite the predictability of the screenplay and the somewhat obvious nature of its themes, this is a movie that has something to get off its chest, which is appreciated. Last Ride is a strong indicator that Glendyn Ivin is a filmmaker worth watching.



Jeremy Heilman