Film Review: West of Sunshine

Jason Raftopoulos’ inner-Melbourne shot drama is obviously made on a low budget yet this gives it a pleasingly raw Aussie realism that’s complemented by a mostly unfamiliar cast.

This brisk, intimate drama offers moral messages about families and forgiveness without beating you over the head, but the life lessons are tough indeed and it frequently doesn’t look like anyone’s going to get to the paradise-like place of the title.

Jimmy (Damian Hill) is a middle-aged guy who’s evidently failed often, and the extent of his mistakes are revealed to us little by little. At first, all we know is that he’s a courier driver and he gets around in the beautifully-maintained ‘70s muscle-car that belonged to his late Dad, a man who disappointed him considerably.

However, Jimmy’s a chronic gambler and has disappointed his own family, meaning that he’s separated from his wife Karen (Faye Smythe) and his son Alex (Ty Perham, Hill’s actual stepson). When he discovers that it’s school holidays and he needs to both work and entertain the kid, he’s forced to load up his own car (insurance issues prevent him using a fleet vehicle) with parcels and drive with the surly Alex to factories and businesses populated by non-actors pretty much playing themselves.

Alex is oblivious to what’s really going on though, as Jimmy owes major money to scary loan shark Banos (Tony Nikolakopoulos), and if “race two at Ballarat” doesn’t work then he’s well and truly stuffed.

The support cast here is strong, with Arthur Angel as Jimmy’s long-suffering friend Steve, Eliza D’Souza as an artist who knew him in the dark past and Kat Stewart in a small role as another figure from the old days, who helps him with a different kind of couriering. But this is mostly all about Hill and Perham, whose natural ease with each other works uncannily well in the bright moments here where the sun shines, however dimly.

Rated M. West of Sunshine is in cinemas now.

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