Sunday Matinee: West of Sunshine [Film]


“Separated from his family and caught in a cycle of gambling and debt, Jim has less than a day to repay a violent loan shark. His day is turned upside down when he must look after his young son. Jim’s relationship with his son is tested as his plans to pay back the loan fail. When his last desperate effort to repay the debt puts his son’s life at risk, he must make a choice between his past and a second chance at life.” – Uncorck’d Entertainment


Strap in Folks, because I’m not going to lie to you….this one may hurt. If you are a person who truly doesn’t understand the power of addiction that could possibly overpower the love you have for another human being, West of Sunshine is a film that is bound to cause some intense frustration. For those of you (us) who know exactly what I am talking about, this is a film that is going to hit you on an oh so powerful level. It may just hurt more than you think you can handle. With powerful performances and a stress factor level that is damn near through the roof of a vintage American car, West of Sunshine is a film that is bound to have an impact you on in one form or another. You’ve been warned!

West of Sunshine had a wonderful showing last year at the Venice Film Festival, which was equipped with a well deserved standing ovation. Well, deserved because there are so many brilliant aspects of this puzzle like film that fit together oh so nicely to create a truly amazing film. From the absolutely stunning cinematography from the great Thom Neal (the man who helped stylize Hannah Gadsby’s brilliant comedy special, Nanette) to a truly beautiful story from the mind of writer/director Jason Raftopoulos, this film is an Australian gem that can only be classified as a must see.

And as West of Sunshine is obviously a character driven film, it would be a crime not to mention the amazing performances given by the recently dearly departed Damian Hill, who I was sad to learn had recently left us due to unknown circumstances in September of 2018.  He was absolutely stellar in this film, and dare I say damn near perfect. It’s a shame that we will no longer have his presence in the physical world, but should his spirit live in one singular performance, I hope that it is his role as Jim, a father with a taxing past and an inner struggle that is either relatable or unimaginable, depending on where you are in your life.

Another shout out has to go to Hill’s real life stepson, Ty Perham, who gives an absolutely wonderful debut performance as Jim’s somewhat estranged son Alex, who is truly the linchpin in this whole film. If you can’t feel for this kid whilst watching West of Sunshine, I’m not certain that you could have any feelings at all. The emotional depth in which Perham is able to bring to the willful ignorance of youth is commendable and brilliant.

Damian Hill & Ty Perham in “West of Sunshine”. Photo credit Thom Neal (cinematographer).

West of Sunshine is being billed and showcased as a crime drama, which is definitely accurate. But, I have to say that I truly believe that it is SO much more than that. The criminal element of the film is almost circumstantial. And while very important to the story line, the focus of the film, in my opinion, remains solely on the relationship of a father and son, amidst the horrors of addiction and coming to grips with the pain of reality. Without spoiling too much, it is suffice to say that an obvious solution to Jim’s probably is (almost literally) right underneath him. But again, depending on your nature, the answer is not always as simple as you may think. And with amazing performances, powerful visuals, and an incredible story, West of Sunshine truly delivers!

The way the world just seems to open up when you rid yourself of the vile things in your life is impeccable. There is nothing like it. You begin to see things for what they really are, and what is truly most important in your life because insanely clear, leaving you to wonder how you ever could have missed it. This is probably the biggest take away from West of Sunshine. The past can sometimes be a very hard thing to let go. And sometimes you must reconcile with your demons, even if it is already too late.


Currently running in select theatres, and releasing on VOD January 22, West of Sunshine is being distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment.


About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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