By Adam Ray Palmer
The fourth film I’m covering here at the 74th Venice Film Festival is the Australian production West of Sunshine.
This film serves as writer and director Jason Raftopoulos’ first feature length movie following four short films in the last six years.
West of Sunshine is a day-in-the-life road movie that follows Jimmy (Damian Hill) who needs to pay back a debt to crime boss Banos (Tony Nikolakopoulos) by close of play. The hitch? He has his son Alex (Tyler Perham) with him all day as the boy’s mother is at work and it’s Jimmy’s duty to look after him.
This means in a few hours, Jimmy needs to courier packages around against the clock with his kid in the passenger seat. Along the way, the pair grow closer over their differences and slowly realise they have a lot more in common than they first thought.
Jimmy’s biggest hindrance, and vice, to paying back $15,000 to Banos is his addiction to gambling. Gamblers, like alcoholics, are a source of some fascination for cinema. The risk and chance carries a sense of which way will the movie turn. Usually, and West of Sunshine follows the trend, the central protagonist hits the highs before tragically crashing down with the lows. This predictability hampers the movie, as does the self-delusion dialogue.
The saving grace of this film is the relationship between father and son. That was also the narrative thread that hooked me into the screening. We’ve all seen addiction films, we’ve all seen a down-and-out character in crisis owing money to a crime boss but we haven’t seen many films with the former two accompanied by a father and son story.
They constantly bicker, and Alex is as annoying as the next phone-loving teen. But it’s the oddly warming sequences like Jimmy teaching Alex blackjack where the movie just keeps above water. West of Sunshine is quite ambitious for a little film, and doesn’t quite have the gravitas to pull off its intentions. At a carwash, Alex sprays his dad with water in slow motion as Jim stands, arms outstretched in a Jesus stance reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, but there’s no way near enough gloom to warrant that recovery.
West of Sunshine lures you in at the premise, but it’s doesn’t quite follow through. Banos is too soft to give the viewers the fearing crime boss image. Plus, it doesn't help the audience to sympathise with Jim's financial difficulties as we watch the pair drive around for the entirety in the solution to his problems. A mixed-bag of film that has more bad apples than good.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2.5 Stars
West of Sunshine doesn’t have an official UK release date yet.