It’s easy for us Americans to look at a film like Glendyn Ivin’s feature debut, Last Ride, with its sprawling views of the Australian outback, as something exotic. All that land! But I wonder if local audiences share that same view, or if they take the scenery for granted, being used to such sights. Fortunately for everyone, there’s something universal to marvel at here as well: Hugo Weaving’s masterful, layered performance. It’s the kind of work that cuts through all cultures.
Weaving is Kev, a semi-civilized man recently released from prison for a crime only hinted at in the beginning of Ride – and pursued by them again. He’s on the road, traversing the country with young son Chook (Tom Russell), teaching him son quite scrappy survival skills, like how to steal and shoot rabbits. Over the course of their journey, Ivin provides flashbacks to their past that start to fill on the blanks on just where they have been and where they are going (Mac Gudgeon adapted the screenplay from Denise Young’s novel).
Impressionable Chook and combustible Kev are travelling in a kind of waking nightmare, but Ivin’s vision of it creates a dreamlike state, especially thanks to Greig Fraser ‘s (Snow White and the Huntsman) cinematography. There is one sequence in which the men’s car drives over Lake Gairdner, making it look as though they are gliding over water (the water is actually covering a solid salt lake). Such moments of reverie make the Kev and Chook’s journey appear to be almost pastoral.
And then there are moments when Ivin jolts the audience straight out of that solemn beauty. Kev often pressures his son, and seems to have no problem yelling at him. In one scene, Kev even throws him out of the car. He forces his son to witness scenes of his own father brutalizing innocent people. Ivin is especially skilled at building tension throughout Ride; at any moment the audience expects something terrible to happen, but can’t be sure what, or even to trust whether Kev will be the cause or the protector if it does.
Weaving isn’t playing at being a bad dad here; he just is. The resourceful actor is able to communicate that Kev does indeed love his son, but it’s a tough love borne from a not-quite-evolved mentality. As Ride moves in a long, at a carefully measured pace, Kev seems to become gradually more aware that he will never truly connect to his son and that perhaps the best lesson he can teach is how to be alone. It’s a bravura turn made all the more compelling by the subtle shadings underneath some of Kev’s more monstrous sensibilities. It’s also hard to believe Russell was barely ten years old when he made Ride, so touching is he as the scared-but-tough Chook. It’s a brave, convincing performance that, like Weaving’s, never bears an ounce of pretension. And so as beautiful as Ride is, it is far from mere eye candy. There’s as much to talk about as there is to look at.
Further information can be found at http://www.lastridemovie.com/
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