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Review: Last Cab to Darwin

July 8, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Last Cab to Darwin PosterRex (Michael Caton) is a lonely old cab driver in central Australia, who is diagnosed with stomach cancer and given three months to live.  This is the setup for Last Cab to Darwin, an evocative and quietly affecting drama that sensitively explores the timely subject of terminally ill patients choosing to end their lives.

When physician assisted death becomes legalized in the Northern Territory, Rex leaves behind his beloved neighbour Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) in Broken Hill, and is determined to make the drive to Darwin, so that he can meet the doctor (Jackie Weaver) who has the power to help him end his life.

When Rex ends up giving a ride to the charismatic Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), and meets a kind young nurse (Emma Hamilton) along the way, the film takes on a classic road trip narrative as he starts to take stock of how much he still has to live for.

Although the characters are fictional, the film is also partially inspired by truth.  Physician assisted death is no longer legal in Australia, but the practice was briefly allowed in 1995 before the laws were struck down two years later, and one of the three people who made the choice to end their life was a taxi driver who drove his cab to Darwin for the procedure.  The film has added relevance for Canadian audiences, with physician assisted death recently being legalized for terminally ill patients in our country under Bill C-14, a law that is still in the process of being ironed out.

Michael Caton brings genuine depth to Last Cab to Darwin through a powerful performance, and helps build suspense around whether or not his character will actually complete the journey.  Jeremy Sims directs with a sensitive touch, and the film has beautifully captured cinematography lit by the orange glow of the desert landscapes and setting sun, which add visual symbolism to the film.  This is a highly compassionate and emotionally involving look at a complex social subject, anchored by a touching and quietly groundbreaking interracial love story, that offers plenty of moving scenes.

Last Cab to Darwin is now playing in limited release at Famous Players Canada Square in Toronto.

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