There’s a lot of reasons to watch this exceptionally
powerful film about the need for voluntary euthanasia, with Jeremy Sims
direction and Reg Cribb’s writing being right up there, but let’s shine a light
on the performances from Michael Caton and Ningali Lawford. Sure, there’s a
great supporting cast including Mark Coles Smith, Jacki Weaver, and Emma
Hamilton, but it’s the central bond between Caton’s Rex, and Lawford’s Polly
that helps make Last Cab to Darwin a
truly brilliant film. Caton is one of Australia’s great actors, as was Lawford,
and uniting them together in this film allows the two to show something that’s
so often missing in cinema as a whole – a tender, caring relationship between
two older people. There are countless moments that’ll have you reaching for the
tissue box, but the final shot of Rex and Polly sitting together is one that
won’t leave your mind quickly.
Sally Aitken’s documentary, David Stratton: A Cinematic Life lives in two formats: a info
packed 100 minute film, and a more extensive and exhaustive two part
miniseries. Both are essential viewing, with the film working as a celebration
of the life of David Stratton – Australia’s best known film critic – as well as
a welcome celebration of Australian cinema. For those who are fans of either
Stratton or Australian film, then this documentary works as welcome traipse
down nostalgia lane, with dalliances in history lessons and misty eyed moments
of memory dives. As a welcome introduction to Australian cinema, David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is
essential viewing. I highly recommend watching this alongside Dancing the Invisible, the documentary
about editor Jill Bilcock.
Look, I know, I know, a black comedy about the Cronulla
riots sounds like the worst thing ever, but director Abe Forsyth manages to
mine this horrific event for every possible laugh that it could possibly have.
Turns out, there’s a huge amount of laughs to be had from making fun of racist
morons. To spoil some of the comedic gold would be to rob Down Under of its welcome surprises, but I’ll throw a quick mention
to the gloriously uproarious reveal of Ned Kelly loving drongo Ditch’s (Justin
Rosniak) new tattoo. Yeah, look, a lot of the laughs are lowest common
denominator stuff, but that doesn’t meant they don’t work. A perfect companion
film to the equally dark Four Lions.
37. Healing – dir. Craig Monahan – 2014
And here we have the great Don Hany leading one of the more
undervalued films of 2014, Craig Monahan’s Healing.
Hany plays Viktor Khadem, a low-security prisoner working his way through the
path of reform. Given the opportunity to work alongside a raptor rehabilitation
centre, Viktor works with Matt Perry (the ever reliable and empathetic Hugo
Weaving) to learn how to work with raptors and prepare them for release. Sure,
the basic concept is simple – two broken individuals (one a man, the other a
bird), come together to mend each other, creating a tender bond between two
unlikely companions – but the execution is what makes Healing an exceptional experience. Hany needs to be given more lead
roles like this.
36. Burning Man – dir. Jonathan Teplitzky – 2011
From one heartbreaker of a film to another, we stumble upon
Jonathan Teplitzky’s long forgotten film, Burning
Man. Taking the lead is import Matthew Goode, an English chef who is
working through a fog of grief that has consumed him. When we meet him, he’s at
his lowest, turning to sex workers to try and reinvigorate his life in some
way, while at the same time, he’s trying to mend the fractured relationship
that he has with his son. But, before you start thinking that this is a film
about the fragility of men, or anything like that, Burning Man manages to quietly reveal itself to become something
more tender and heartbreaking than expected. Matthew Goode has never been
better, and the always appreciated Bojana Novakovic delivers a welcome support
Orry-Kelly is one of Australia’s grandest and greatest
exports – and a three time Oscar winner too – is given the much needed
celebration of his life in Gillian Armstrong’s documentary Women He’s Undressed. If you’re unfamiliar with the life of Orry-Kelly,
then sit down and watch Women He’s
Undressed with a blank slate – you’ll be thankful that you did. But, for
everyone else, the relationships that make up his life are why this film is
well worth sinking into. Learning about the importance of Cary Grant in his
life, and in turn, how he worked with stars like Bette Davis and Marilyn
Monroe, you can’t help but wish that Orry-Kelly were held in higher regard. Why
aren’t we talking about Orry-Kelly more? Why aren’t there buildings dedicated
to Orry-Kelly? Women He’s Undressed
works to celebrate the man in a way that Australia has neglected to.
You may know Greg McLean for his Wolf Creek films, and sure, they’re solid enough to be known for,
but you should probably seek out McLean’s best film – Jungle. Not only does this film contain another great performance
from Daniel Radcliffe – an actor who continually appears to push himself into
roles that are as far removed from Harry Potter as possible – but it contains
some of the most intense, gruesome, and squeam-inducing moments in a survival
tale. Based on the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg, Jungle impresses thanks to McLean’s dedication to showing the
difficulty that Ghinsberg faced when he found himself lost in the Bolivian jungle.
Teenage trauma and sexuality is explored in depth in Craig
Boreham’s superb Teenage Kicks. Miles
Szanto takes lead duties as Miklós Varga, a teen who experiences tragedy, and
in turn, tries to navigate his grief, all the while grappling with his own
sexuality. It’s rare to see bisexual relationships on screen, and it’s powerful
to see Teenage Kicks display
bisexuality so openly and delicately. There were a wealth of great LGBTIQA+
films in the 2010’s – I struggled to find places on this list for Remembering the Man, Holding the Man, and Gayby Baby, but they’re welcome mentions
– but it’s Craig Boreham’s Teenage Kicks
that stands tall above all else. Also, as an aside, can we please put Shari
Sebbens in more films? Thank you.
Part of the reason why The
Rover is one of the finest films of the 2010’s comes at its gut punch of a
final reveal. If you haven’t seen The
Rover, then read Jonathan
Spiroff’s review as to why you should. If you have seen it, then feel free
to read on. The events of the film follows Guy Pearce’s gruff and grim
weathered post apocalypse man as he tracks down the people who stole his car.
The plot appears slight, and we can’t help but ask, why on earth would you hunt
down a car when you could just steal someone elses? But, when he finally gets
his car back, we find that the reason he engaged in so much violence to get his
ride back was not for the car itself, but its cargo – the body of his dog. In a
world where nothing holds value anymore, it’s an emotional gut punch to see a
man work so hard for the one thing that he held dear, the body of his companion,
his friend, the only purpose to stay alive – his dog.
31. Paper Planes – dir. Robert Connolly – 2014
Director Robert Connolly is one of Australia’s finest
directors, often working in the realm of adult drama. This alone is the reason
why Paper Planes is one of the most
entertaining films of the 2010’s – it’s a kids film, but it’s a kids film
through the perspective of adult eyes. A depressed father, Jack (the never
better Sam Worthington), tries his best to help raise his kid, Dylan (Ed
Oxenbould), and together they find the art of paper plane making. The art of
making the perfect paper plane takes Jack and Dylan all over Australia from the
outback of WA, to Sydney, to Japan. It’s a deceptively simple film that’s full
of heart, compassion, and awareness of the difficulties of living with a mental
illness. Easily one of the finest kids films Australia has ever produced.
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