Last Cab to Darwin, directed by Jeremy Sims with a screenplay by Sims and Reg Cribb tells the story of Rex (Michael Caton), a taxi driver who travels from his home town of Broken Hill to Darwin after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, to take advantage of a newly passed euthanasia bill in the Northern Territory. Adapted from Cribb’s stage play, which in turn was inspired by the true story of Max Bell, the film has all the ingredients to be another ‘dark Australian film’ sure to be cited in future articles pondering the plight of the Australian cinema landscape – Last Cab to Darwin is not that film, instead it takes the emotional honesty and authenticity of such films and allows it to evolve in a heart-warming, surprisingly humorous road trip, that is sure to please audiences in both independent and multiplex cinemas.
Sims confidentially directs the film, tackling a narrative with a number of what could be considered hot topic/political issues- ranging from euthanasia to racism in a way which isn’t heavy handed, it merely is as it would be in the small town world the film depicts, leaving the audience to consider our feelings about what we see and hear. As soon as we are introduced to Caton’s Rex as he drives the people of Broken Hill around town, enjoys a beer with mates and listens to his impressive record collection, he feels like someone we all know. Rex’s relationship with his neighbour Polly (Ningali Lawford), a strong willed Aboriginal woman gives the beginning of the film much of its humour, heart and energy, so when Rex decides to take the long drive to Darwin to end his life and unceremoniously leaves Polly behind, her absence is felt. Thankfully the road trip portion of the film introduces the charismatic Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), a firecracker of a performance by Smith as a young Aboriginal man, whose confidence and easy humour conceals a troubled family life and faith in himself.
As the trusty taxi cab etches closer to Darwin, the film takes a few surprising turns as another character is introduced and Rex is finally meets euthanasia advocate Dr Farmer (Jacki Weaver). The shift in narrative and tone at first feels slightly jarring however it progresses towards a truly beautiful emotional pay off, that reinforces the films themes of the importance of personal belief and allowing oneself to be vulnerable enough to recognise the love and support present in our lives, regardless of how it presents itself.