WEST OF SUNSHINE, Australia, 2017. Starring Damien Hill, Ty Perham, Arthur Angel, Kat Stewart, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Kaarin Fairfax. Directed by Jason Raftopoulos. 78 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language).
Here is a small budget piece of Australiana – or, more particularly, Victoriana and, even more particularly, of Melbourne’s western suburbs. (Those not familiar with Melbourne will not notice but, in fact, most of the action takes place east of Sunshine.)
The film also has a brief running time. It covers the day in the life of Jimmy, a rather dismal and disillusioning day at times, some crises points in his life. He is played convincingly by Damian Hill and he plays against his stepson in real life, his son in the film, Ty Perham.
The film opens with Jimmy waking up, getting ready to go to work, going to his wife’s house to pick up his son, Alex, trying to get another friend to mind the sun for the day but he refuses. He is accompanied to work by his good friend, Steve. They work at a delivery centre and, they arrive late for work, Jimmy initially unwilling to use his own car, pride and joy inherited from his father, but he finally agrees and begins his rounds.
This gives the director the opportunity to drive around Melbourne, showing the variety of the suburbs, the skyline of the inner city, the different views of streets, homes, warehouses, cafes, pubs… In many ways, the film offers an arresting portrait of Melbourne.
Jimmy really hasn’t made much of his life. He says he loves his wife. He loves his son but there are continued tensions between them as the day goes on, Jimmy forced to have Alex in the car with him, trying to get him to stay in the car but Alex wandering in and, despite warnings, inevitably touching things. He is bored, plays games on his father’s phone, gets hungry. And, inevitably, he gets into real trouble when his father does some drug-delivering to get extra cash.
Cash and repayment are at the centre of the plot. Jimmy owes a great deal but has a certainty at the races with the possibility of a big win, encouraging Steve to go along with him. It partly works out – and it partly doesn’t which leads to more tensions, Jimmy at first willing to sell his car, finally turning up to the loan shark, and his thugs, who is owed the money.
So, a slice of life from the western suburbs of Melbourne. It is the first feature film by Jason Raftopolous who also wrote the screenplay. It won him and award at the Barcelona International Film Festival and was screened in 2017 at the Venice Film Festival.
Released August 23rd.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.