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Prime Mover

Australia 2009
Directed by
David Caesar
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Prime Mover

Synopsis: In the town of Dubbo, NSW, young Thomas (Michael Dorman) works as a truck signwriter and pinstriper but he dreams of owning his own prime mover and driving the long-haul routes. When he meets Melissa (Emily Barclay) he is inspired to follow his deaam. Unscrupulous Johnnie (Ben Mendelsohn) encourages Thomas to take an unsustainable loan to buy his own rig. Thomas sub-contracts for owner/driver Phil (William McInnes), but as repayments mount and the driving takes its toll, Thomas must face the serious issues of responsibility and growing up.

Described as a ‘diesel-charged romance’, Prime Mover is a refreshingly different addition to the roster of great Australian films this year. Director David Caesar (Mullet and Dirty Deeds) takes a slightly off-beat approach to his story of men, trucks and love by including dashes of magic realism. Thus, when Thomas’s heart beats hard for his girl we see inside his chest a throbbing V8 engine; when he looks at the girly calendar on his wall, he sees his beloved Mel, scantily-clad and holding a large spanner. Mel’s background is that of a gypsy, or at least that’s how she sees herself, so she dresses in boho style, Thomas gives their Aussie caravan a gypsy makeover and and at a local dance the band plays Romany music. Through all these devices Caesar achieves the fable-like story he set out to create – a story announced in the opening moments with quintessential Western-style music and a voice-over saying “Once upon a time in a town called Dubbo . . .”.

Exotic embellishments aside, Caesar situates his story very much in the Aussie vernacular. Caesar himself drove trucks at age 19 and there’s plenty of authentic country Australiana in every scene and its characters. Thomas is the archetypal immature young man who overreaches his ability and thereby puts in peril the things that are important to him and at which he excels. Young Michael Dorman gives his character a sweetness not often seen in the Aussie male. His perfect foil is Emily Barclay.  She’s tomboyish, sweet, awkward and strong, all rolled into one. The love between them feels real. Supporting the leads are strong performances by Mendelsohn as the nasty Johnnie and the always-enjoyable McInnes as Phil, the voice of avuncular reason..More use however could have been made of Anni Finsterer as Thomas's mother.

It’s fun to see a town like Dubbo starring in a film and the stunning Australian scenery is used to superb cinematic effect.  I also loved Caesar’s vision of Outback trucking life. It feels like a truthful portrayal of the hazards of the long-haul – tiredness, amphetamines, debt, and never being at home with one’s family.

With a strong plot, eye-catching visuals and a fabulous soundtrack, Prime Mover is a film that really entertains.




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