Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.
Hugo Weaving’s 2009 film Last Ride (directed by Glendyn Ivin) has heretofore been one of his great unsung projects, beloved by fans lucky enough to have seen it (or who own the Australian or German DVD releases) but mostly unknown to the general public. Hugo himself has called the film one of his recent favorites and has openly lamented the fact that even in Australia it was so little-seen. That might be about to change, at least a little. Though Last Ride will never have a Matrix or LOTR-sized media blitz associated with it, it is finally being released in the US and, more crucially, is attracting four-star reviews from influential film critics and positive word of mouth. So far the film is only booked in two cinemas– it opened at Chicago’s Music Box Theater today and will open in New York at Cinema Village on July 6. There’s also a rumored Los Angeles run (though I could find no listing for one yet) and the film might find its way into additional arthouses over the course of the summer.
Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell in Last Ride
But it will probably find most of its audience through a DVD release and Video on Demand: you can now watch the film via iTunes, Amazon or Vudu. Music Box Films‘ webpage for Last Ride will hook you up (and you can still enter your zip code demanding a local cinema engagement.) 😉 Alas, no specifics on the Region 1 DVD/BluRay as yet; Netflix allows you to Saved Queue the film until they become available.
I was heartened by the film’s enthusiastic response from American film critics: I’ll print a selection of quotes below with links to the full reviews. As it turns out, several widely-distributed film critics work for Chicago-based papers. 😉
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: “The film is astonishing in its visual beauty; cinematographer Greig Fraser finds nobility in this arduous journey. As Kev, the veteran actor Weaving gives the performance of lifetime. You may recall him as Elrond in The Lord of The Rings films. Here he plays a man who never tries to be nice, never tries to be cruel, only responds to his nature. He is down to his desperate final resources and clings to the conviction that somehow he and the boy will find a place where he can be a father….Tom Russell was a 10-year-old Adelaide schoolboy when he made “Last Ride,” his feature film debut. I have run out of words to account for young actors. Untrained, they seem able to reach an instinctive core of natural truth. Russell is in almost every scene, as authoritative as the adult actors. …For director Glendyn Ivin, this is also a debut feature, although he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for a short subject. Remarkable, how he begins with materials that could have given themselves so easily to a road movie formula, and finds such truth and beauty. He knows so surely where he’s going that he arrives at a perfect final shot, that tells us what we need to know about Chook.” Four Stars
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “It’s a chronicle of heartbreak tempered by weird wrinkles of affection: As this pair (“We’re Butch and Sundance,” Weaving mutters) keeps one step ahead of the law, starvation and their own creeping sense of hopelessness, director Glendyn Ivin manages an effective interweave of flashbacks and present-moment tension….[It] certainly stays with you.”
Sam Adams, Time Out Chicago: “Kev loves the boy, but the violence of his own upbringing is never far beneath the surface, and he seems unable to distinguish the line between rambunctious play and outright abuse. As they’re out camping one day, the man throws his son, who can’t swim, into a nearby pond, and laughs as he flails and screams. It’s a tribute to the complexity of Weaving’s performance that the moment is both resonant and irreducible, a thorny fusion of paternalistic sadism and good-natured push-out-of-the-nest encouragement; even he doesn’t seem to know which. Ivin pilots the pair through a series of bleakly beautiful landscapes, including the mirrorlike expanse of inch-deep Lake Gairdner.” Four Stars
Allison Willmore The AV Club: “Against stunning South Australian landscapes, the man and his son try to maintain a tenuous normality in spite of their dire situation, in what’s ultimately a sad, standout showcase for Weaving’s talents as a man whose good intentions can’t fix the fact that irreparable mistakes have already been made…. In spite of that sense of knowing where the film is headed long before it gets there, Last Ride finds poetry in its gorgeous backdrop and its portrait of a complicated character attempting, hopelessly, to set things right after upending the world.”
Brian Orndorf, BluRay.com: “Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell spend the run time working to disturb with their unpredictable performances, capturing an uneasy and abusive familial relationship with a natural chemistry, guided patiently by director Glendyn Ivin…The atmosphere of “Last Ride” is skillfully rendered by Ivin, who weaves a sense of history to the trail as Kev shares his childhood memories of their stops, with flashes of fathering managing to shine through a seemingly devious man….With much of the film devoted to the interaction between Kev and Chook, “Last Ride” turns to Weaving and Russell for much of its dramatic insight. The performances are marvelous, expressing an enormous reservoir of suspicion and grief without bleeding into melodrama, preferring to expose naked emotion through looks instead of fidgety gestures. It’s easy to understand the men and their concerns, even with a story that takes its time arriving at revelations and conclusions. The pair holds “Last Ride” together with a questioning, irritable dynamic, forcing the audience to pay attention to the minutiae of their conduct, which often communicates more about the situation than simple storytelling mechanics.”
Steve Prokopy, Ain’t It Cool News: “”LAST RIDE is a measured work whose sole propulsive element is a savage performance by Weaving, whose character wants so desperately to be a good father that he allows his son to essentially take over and make the decisions for them even if it means him getting captured (obviously, that’s not his first choice). Weaving is so invested in this man’s struggle that you simply can’t take his eyes off him, and you’re in a constant state of anxiety about what’s going to happen to and between them. LAST RIDE is a film loaded with tension, even at moments I don’t think it’s meant to be there. Weaving just drags it along with him wherever he goes, and it elevates the film beyond simply telling a story to a place where every scene is fraught with emotional weight….And I haven’t even mentioned how unconventionally gorgeous the movie looks…”
Hugo is already deeply immersed in his next project, Mystery Road: according to The Daily Telegraph he’s already appeared on the film’s Queensland set along with costars Ryan Kwanten and Aaron Pedersen. No word on how he’s juggling the film with rehearsals for the New York engagement of Uncle Vanya, which begins July 19… but Hugo’s multitasked on larger projects (he shot Lord of the Rings and the Matrix sequels during the same period). These two might just be closer to his heart.
Hugo was last photographed at the Sydney Film Festival last month, in this case at the June 16 premiere of the film Dead Europe, which features his former costars Marton Csokas and Ewen Leslie. So here’s that glimpse to tide us over until the Vanya press onslaught. 😉
Photo by Nicky Akehurst, Sydney Film Festival’s Facebook page
THIS JUST IN: A teaser poster for Cloud Atlas, courtesy Circle of Confusion: