Last Ride (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Kev (Hugo Weaving), recently released from prison, takes his son on a spontaneous road trip. Initially, Chook (Tom Russell) believes his dad is a changed man, the trip guised as an opportunity for them to get to know one another and make up for missing time. However, every time Max, the man who took care of Chook when Kev was in jail, is brought up in conversations, Kev takes a defensive stance. Chook sees that his father hates Max, completely oblivious to the fact that his former guardian is dead. The trip, as it turns out, is not for enjoyment nor a way to get closer as a father-son pair but a ruse to evade the police.
Based on the novel by Denise Young and screenplay by Mac Gudgeon, “Last Ride” manages to capture the complicated and often painful relationship between father and son, but the manner in which the narrative is executed leaves a lot to be desired.
The utilization of flashbacks should have been more forceful as to demand attention to memories that can be open to interpretation depending on either an adult’s or child’s perspective. However, these recollections are consistently treated as an afterthought until they are once again convenient to move the plot forward. This is a critical miscalculation because prior to the father-son road trip, memories are all they have of one another. Because the flashbacks lack substance, even though the plot is interesting, we try to dig through but the picture does not give us enough to bite into.
The work might have been stronger if the events that triggered the father and son to go on a journey were shown first, thereby making room for a clear and smooth trajectory in terms of the plot and the pacing. The flashbacks appear and end so suddenly at times that the approach takes one out of the experience as the viewer attempts to measure or get the feel for the central characters’ tenuous relationship.
What the picture does best, however, is setting up various situations designed to harden a child’s soul. A most memorable sequence involves Kev throwing his son into a body of water despite just having been informed that the boy does not know how to swim. Kev, who reckons himself a masculine figure—a real tough-guy—thinks it is the perfect time for his son to learn and the best way to do so is to chuck the boy into the deep end. Russell does a commendable job transforming Chook in small ways which eventually snowball into bigger and surprising changes.
“Last Ride,” directed by Glendyn Ivin, has some complexity in its bones, like the father’s struggle in trying to be good to his son but the bad seems to be ingrained in him, but the presentation of the events occasionally lacks a certain focus or clarity, a quality that is necessary for us to care about and become invested in the harrowing and bleak experiences.