22nd Jan2019

‘West of Sunshine’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Damian Hill, Ty Perham,  Kat Stewart, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Arthur Angel, Kaarin Fairfax, Faye Smythe | Written and Directed by Jason Raftopoulos


It’s no secret that while these fair British Isles basically invented acting and movie-making, another country out there has a particular knack of making some tremendously emotional and jarringly real films and TV shows… Australia I am looking directly at you!

For years now I have championed some of the titles that come out of Australia (especially on the indie scene) the wealth of talent in front of and behind the camera is incredible. Look no further than TV shows like Underbelly or Wentworth; movies like Two Hands, Babadook, Chopper, Wolf Creek, Ned Kelly or Animal Kingdom to name a few.

Now I get to add West of Sunshine to my list of Aussie movies that more than deserve your attention.

I am a sucker for a movie that strips away all the bells and whistles of a big budget blockbuster. Give me a grass roots emotional story about a screw up father and his kid any day of the week over the latest “cars to robots” movie (I feel this says more about me than the film industry). West of Sunshine is exactly that. A real story about a father spending the day with his son while trying to come to terms with the heavy shit weighing his life down.

I will get to plot and verdict in a moment but first of all I would like to give a huge shout out to first-time director Jason Raftopoulos. – who has come out of the gates with an extremely moving and powerful story that had me, quite honestly, moved to tears. Now don’t get me wrong credit where credit is due, our two leading stars are incredible but the performances given here have a big old beautiful light shone on them by a director who has the sense to hold the scene for a beat longer then normal. Sometimes I feel movies can hinder their own story by not letting the performances breathe. Jason clearly doesn’t have this problem and because of this Damian Hill is able to put in an outstanding and extremely REAL performance.

Jim has a long day at work ahead of him when a spanner is thrown in the works and his estranged wife calls demanding he look after their son Alex. This couldn’t have come on a worse day. Jim is on a tight deadline because he has till the afternoon to pay back some mean ass loan sharks. What follows is a day in the life story of an on the ropes father spending time with his son while trying to get his shit together. We follow the highs and lows as Jim takes to betting on the horses and winning big then instantly hitting the lows and screwing that up, forcing his best friend and girlfriend to make horrible choices and ultimately taking his child on drug runs to cover his debt, putting his son in immediate danger… This is a movie about a father coming to a realisation and having to make some pretty major choices for the sake of himself and his child.

I have spoken about the director already but let me reiterate that I cant say enough about the movie that Raftopoulos has created. There seems to be a ton of buzz for this flick on the circuits and its obvious to see why. Damian Hill is incredible as Jim, he truly makes you believe that this is not a bad guy he has just screwed up in a bad way. I was fully invested in the relationship between Damian and our child star Ty Perham who let me just say is outstanding, this is his first movie and he knocks it clean out of the park. I was so chuffed to see Kat Stewart and Tony Nikolakopoulos (Underbelly) putting in turns and Arthur Angel (The Legend Of Ben Hall) rounding out an impressive cast. Amazing job all round.

From the moment this flick started I was in for the ride – it comes out of the gate with what you may expect from a low budget indie flick, it has the sense of “we are are about to watch someones real life unravel,” we have some long intrusive sometimes awkward feeling tense shots that leave you wondering exactly where we are headed. When the lows are low they are pretty damn low BUT in the middle of all of this you have some real father and son moments that hit you right in the heart, moments that serve to remind you just how precious time with family can be (shut up, your crying). At just around 80 inutes I would struggle to recommend a better way to spend your time than watching this movie. If your a great big softy like me who gets way more emotional over films than he should then this movie is a definite recommend. Truthfully this one hit me hard!!

Uncork’d Entertainment are set to release West of Sunshine on VOD from today, January 22nd. The film also opens theatrically in the US on January 25th.


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