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Film Review: West Of Sunshine

Director:    Jason Raftopoulos

Cast:    Damian Hill, Ty Perham, Arthur Angel, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Kaarin Fairfax, Kat Stewart, Faye Smythe, Eliza D’Souza

Rating:    M

Running Time:    78

Australian Distributor:     Uncork’d Entertainment


Jason Raftopoulos’s feature debut first screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2017. Jim (Damian Hill) is crippled by gambling debts, and is in debt to a loan shark (Tony Nikolakopoulos) for $15,000. His financial plan is to pick the next winner at the racetrack. However, as it comes down to crunch time, Jim has to look after his son Alex (Ty Perham) during a day off school. Here his son witnesses his father’s strengths and weaknesses up close.  

Hill is excellent as Jim, and his background as a writer gave him plenty to work with. As the film unfolds, we learn that Jim is estranged from his own father, and the vintage car he holds onto dearly is one of the last things he possesses from that relationship.

This is the Melbourne we don’t always see in films.  It’s warehouses, the back seat of cars, and public houses that don’t look like they’ve changed their decor in forty years. There’s a warmth to the photography. Raftopoulos should be given credit for taking a risk by creating a sensitive, intimate Australian film that is different from what mass audiences outside of the land down under expect.

The film is more about the damaged relationship between the father and his son than paying off a gambling debt. Overall, it’s a reliable character piece that’s a showcase for what will hopefully be more from this creative team.  

Just a note of credit to the late Damien Hill, his final lead performance since his untimely passing in September 2017. His performance is worth seeing no matter what you might think of the film.

WEST OF SUNSHINE is set for a theatrical release on January 18 and digital release on January 22.

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