WEST OF SUNSHINE gets 7.5/10 Know when to hold them

Directed by Jason Raftopoulos

Starring Damian Hill, Ty Perham, Arthur Angel, Tony Nikolapoulos


Based on his award winning short Father’s Day, Jason Raftopoulos has expanded the concept into a short sharp shock to the system. At 78 minutes West of Sunshine certainly knows how to deliver, and creates a definitive argument for quality over quantity.

With a debt hanging over his head to a violent loan shark, Jim (Damian Hill) has the course of one day to acquire the vast sum of cash owing. Matters are further complicated when he’s informed that he has previously agreed to look after his son, and so with Alex (Ty Perham) in tow, sets out onto the streets of Melbourne to attempt to clear his gambling debt. Packed into a vintage car, the last vestige of Jim’s own absentee parent, the father and son search for a means out of trouble as well as a way to mend their fractured relationship.

West of Sunshine is certainly a case of a simple story executed well. Around those slim bones lies a wealth of character and meaning, brought ably to the screen both by the acting and the stylish direction. The script may not push the boundaries, but it renders beautiful life to a believable tale, its modest story enriched in the telling. Inspired by the Italian Neo Realists, but with the occasional glimpse of heightened cinematic story telling, Raftopoulos (working hand in glove with his DOP) showcases the streets of Melbourne through the course of one pivotal day.

Central to this is Damian Hill, as he brings the desperation and complicated relationship Jim has both with himself and to his son, to the forefront. You can clearly see the pull of gambling as he gets lost in its tide, you can also see the disappointment with himself as he hits the bottom. However you can also see the love he has for his son, his confusion at the generation gap, but also the realisation as to how he contributed to this rift. As Jim struggles to do better than his own father, and to not burden his son in the same way, Hill plays on the empathy of the audience, demonstrating the flawed but redeemable character.

This is amplified by the chemistry between Hill and Perham. Playing against his real life step son, the bond feels genuine, and first time performer Perham is fearless in how much emotion he brings to the screen. Those plaintive attempts to connect, and those inevitable moments of disappointment are heartbreaking to watch, but also compelling.

The result is a solid slice of Australian urban life, giving us a glimpse at the seedy underbelly, but without veering into the melodramatic.