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Australia 2006
Directed by
Jeremy Sims
85 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Last Train To Freo

Synopsis: An attractive young law student (Gigi Edgley) catches the last train home to Fremantle. The carriage is empty but for two highly offensive and menacing louts (Tom Budge and Steve LeMarquand) who want to play games with her. What should she do? Will anyone come to her aid?

Jeremy Sims will be well-known to mainstream audiences as an actor from television series like Police Rescue and films such as Secret Men’s Business (1999). Such an audience is anything but the target demographic for his debut feature film, an impressively-crafted, confronting, performance-based drama.

Adapted from his own play, The Return, by Reg Cribb, a writer with whom Sims has had a long-standing collaborative relationship in theatre (including directing the play on stage), Last Train To Freo benefits from both men’s familiarity with the text and the demands it makes on its performers. Set in the real-time of 85 minutes it takes the train to complete its journey there are no attempts here, as is so often the case in stage adaptations, to use cinematic resources to lighten the load on the actors. The entire film (bar the brief top and tail) is set within the confines of the single train compartment and there are no flashbacks or imaginary sequences to embellish what is in itself the already spartan setting of a suburban train carriage. This is a brave aesthetic choice that Sims pulls off with aplomb, focussing instead on Cribb’s multi-layered text and the work of his actors

Here, Steve LeMarquand, who has been building his CV in film thuggery through Two Hands (1999) and Lost Things (2003), dominates as "The Tall Thug", a charismatic, articulate sociopath who switches at will between animal charm and violent anger. Tom Budge, an actor who impressed with his big screen debut as “Pickles” in Paul Goldman’s Australian Rules (2002), is also well cast as his weasely accomplice (in The Proposition, 2005, he plays a character called Samuel Stoat!) whilst Gigi Edgley as the provocatively-attired young women brings a mix of intelligent confidence and feminine demureness that is perfectly suited to the cat-and-mouse game that her character finds herself in. These three carry the bulk of the film which some will find uncomfortable with its palpable and all-too-believable sense of sexual threat, Sims and Cribb ratcheting up the tension, then slackening off before turning it up yet another notch as the journey unfolds.

This claustrophic situation does create certain formal problems, however, which are not resolved entirely successfully. In a large part the tension is generated by the fact that we all know that eventually the cat will tire of its game and finish off its victim. So what is going to happen we ask ourselves? Proceedings are prolonged by the introduction of a fourth character, an older woman, Maureen (Gillian Jones) and a nerdy middle-class individual, Simon (Glenn Hazeldine). The woman provides some characteristically Aussie nous and even comic relief and broadening the canvas somewhat before departing but the problem of how to resolve the harrowing situation is thrust upon the latter.

Here the film falters, leaving its gambit too late, at least relative to the amount of time spent on the build-up. Simon (a kind of locum for Cribb who based the play on his own experiences) is suddenly introduced and delivers a complicated back-story that unbalances the economy of what has gone before, overloading the audience with a surfeit of information that must be processed intellectually rather than emotionally. Suddenly we are asked to imagine events whereas all that had gone before was based on the evidence of our eyes. Sims also opts for a rather melodramatic treatment here. I do not know if the stage play had a similar ending but the problem with the camera is that it takes us very close to the actors and only the very best can credibly bring off heavy emoting under such circumstances. Whilst all the cast make a decent fist of it, it probably would have been better avoided, as once again the tonal shifts are too sudden to convince.

Such criticism aside, with its pared-down aesthetic and performative intensity Last Train To Freo is a bold and distinctively individual film.




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