Euthanasia is a difficult subject, but it is dealt with openly and without moralistic brow-beating in this light-hearted but certainly not frivolous movie. Director Jeremy Sims’s dramedy has been adapted from the stage play by Reg Cribb, which in turn was based on a true story.
Suffering with terminal cancer, Rex (Michael Caton), a cab driver in Broken Hill, has been given three months to live. Not wishing to die in hospital, he decides to drive to Darwin where a law has been passed that will allow him to painlessly end his days. He leaves behind Polly (Ningali Lawford), his Aboriginal neighbour and unacknowledged partner, his dog and a bunch of drinking mates.
First stop on his road trip is Oodnadatta, where he picks up the ne’er do well Tilly (Mark Coles Smith). Caton is one of Australia’s finest actors and his partnership with the irrepressible, lairy Smith is at the film’s vibrant heart. Julie (Emma Hamilton), the cute English barmaid, meets the pair at Daly Waters and joins them on their journey north. The seriousness of Rex’s condition and his wilful response to it is the brooding constant as the yellow cab nears its fateful destination.
Hindsight is priceless, for none of us can be certain at the time of making our choices that they are the ones that truly reflect our needs. The further Rex travels along his road, the more clearly he begins to see what put him on it. Likewise for the young Tilly, who has never bothered to own up to himself and take responsibility for his actions – both men come to understand that, like the song says, ‘we all need someone we can lean on’. Finally in Darwin, at the practice of Dr Farmer (Jacki Weaver), Rex is hooked up to the computerised gizmo that will relieve him of his sorrows – it is a replica of the machine designed, and utilised, by Philip Nitschke. A lovely, soulful movie, with a finely understated performance by Caton, not least of all because he really looks sick.