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Rex is a loner, and when he's told he doesn't have long to live, he embarks on an epic drive through the Australian outback from Broken Hill to Darwin to die on his own terms; but his journey reveals to him that before you can end your life, you have to live it, and to live it, you've got to share it.Written by
Reg Cribb and Jeremy Sims
Rex's taxi is shown to have South Australian licence plates. Broken Hill, although near the SA/NSW border, and uses South Australian rather than NSW time, would have New South Wales licence plates, especially for a registered business in Broken Hill. See more »
When Tilly is in the back of the cab for the first time having a smoke
he opens the rear window. There is the sound of a power window opener. That model Falcon only has power windows in the front. See more »
Scriptwriter Reg Cribb and director Jeremy Simms have taken the true-life story of Max Bell and put a lens on attitudes about the right to die and aspects of Australian society most of us rarely see.
The film, based on Reg Cribb's 2003 stage play, commences in Broken Hill. Rex, a cabbie played by Michael Caton, has a long-standing relationship with Polly his Aboriginal neighbour. Both have somewhat abrasive personalities, but they complement each other perfectly.
When Rex is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, he learns that the Northern Territory has legalised euthanasia. He decides to leave and drive his cab to Darwin to have an assisted death rather than face a lingering one in hospital.
Rex's trip to Darwin is not unlike the journey of the three protagonists in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", its across roughly the same area and ends up in the same place, but like that earlier film, it's also a journey of discovery. Along the way, Rex becomes involved with a number of people and they change each other's lives.
Although the film alters Max Bell's experience considerably, "Last Cab to Darwin" allows for another journey; the one through the divide in Australian society that started in 1788 when the original inhabitants and the European settlers were thrown together.
The film seems to reinforce certain stereotypes about Indigenous Australians, especially in the role of Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), however in other ways it shows them as more sharing and less obsessed with material possessions. Tilly's character emerges as a complex one, although brash and cocky on the surface, his underlying fears and self doubts are revealed.
The setting for the film is during that brief period in the mid 1990's when euthanasia was legalised in the Northern Territory, but was quickly shut down by federal law. The film doesn't necessarily advocate euthanasia though; both sides of the argument are played out.
Finally, the performances are so real that some scenes are hard to watch. Michael Caton gave us a modern Australian icon with his Darryl Kerrigan in "The Castle", but he surpasses himself here.
The last scene in "Last Cab to Darwin" is a lump in the throat moment. Maybe the film won't have much of a following outside Australia, but its central theme of the right to die with dignity is universal.
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