Ride Off Into the Sunset
Euthanasia - the assisted suicide of a patient with a terminal or chronic illness - is technically illegal in Australia, just as it is in most of the world. However, in 1995, the one part of the country where Euthanasia was legally permitted (albeit temporarilty) was the Northern Territory.
Suicide itself is not considered a crime anywhere in Australia. A patient can elect not to receive any treatment for a terminal illness and can also elect to have their life support turned off. But enlisting help from a medical professional in facilitating one's own demise is another story. In "Last Cab to Darwin," Australian actor-turned-writer/director Jeremy Sims, has given us an Australian view of the debate in regards to euthanasia.
Based on true events, and adapted from a stage play from 2003, "Last Cab to Darwin" tells the story of Rex (Michael Caton), an aging cab driver from the small Australian town of Broken Hill. It's the kind of close-knit community where everyone seemingly knows everyone else. Just about everyone Rex runs into knows him by name and warm, friendly hellos abound. When he's not driving his cab, Rex and his mates hang out at the local bar/restaurant downing beers and recounting the same old tales they have no doubt told before, but which still evoke hearty laughter and back-slapping.
Rex's home is small, but cozy. Directly across the street lives Polly (Ningali Lawford), a woman who screams at him incessantly. At first we wonder if it's just neighborly disputes or if there is more to it than that. Sims slowly reveals that it's actually a very strong love that the two secretly share.
Rex's life takes a turn when his health begins to deteriorate and he learns that he is terminally ill with stomach cancer. Rex is told that he has three months to live. He refuses to go to a hospital under any circumstance, choosing instead to continue driving his taxi.
One day, while making his rounds with a fare, Rex hears a doctor on the radio talking about euthanasia having recently been legalized in the city of Darwin. But no one has undergone the procedure yet, because it is still being met with great resistance. Rex immediately calls the show and is put on the air. He wants to volunteer. From that point on, it's all about his journey to get to Darwin and the people he meets along the way.
"Last Cab to Darwin" works extremely well for one main reason: the magnificent performance by Michael Caton. His character isn't long-winded, but he can invoke deep feelings from the audience with just a few words and sometimes even with just a single facial expression. The story is really more about the journey and has little to do with whether Rex will actually meet his chosen end. And that's enough. This cab ride is definitely worth the fare.