West of Sunshine (2017) | Venice Film Festival 2017
Dir: Jason Raftopoulos | Australia / 78’ | cast: Damian Hill, Ty Perham, Kat Stewart, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Arthur Angel
First time director/writer Jason Raftopoulos’ well-meaning but in may ways flawed father-son relationship story has plenty of twists, but still panders too much to the notorious Australian male ego. A father has less than a day’s time to repay a debt while also bonding with his son. Low on the tension needed to fuel the countdown narrative West of Sunshine is a metaphor for a life where hope and the future reside under sunnier skies.
Set in a the back end of Melbourne the action takes place between morning and evening, and Raftopoulos loses no time in introducing the two main characters: father Jimmy (Hill) who is running late collecting his teenage son Alex (Perham) from his estranged wife’s house in a middle class suburb. Jimmy is a compulsive gambler working as a courier, and even his best friend Steve (Angel) is running out of patience with him. The clocks ticks by as he first upsets his on-and-off girlfriend, then starts peddling drugs for Mel (Stewart), another ex. In between, he makes a big win on the horses, but schematically gambles it all away. Everything happens more or less in front of Alex, who is told that Dad is “selling vitamins” – before he finds out the truth, tasting some of the coke. Down on his uppers, Jimmy then leaves his vintage car with his debtor, having been beaten up by two heavies. No surprises in store here.
Raftopoulos pulls off the action scenes with a certain aplomb, but when he turns his camera to the emotional father and son scenes the drama turns soggy and kitsch with the use of slow-motion and sunsets. When asked by his mother how his day with Dad went, Alex answers “the best day ever”. Really? AS
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 30 AUGUST – 10 SEPTEMBER