Smoothie reviews the new Australian anthology film about life in Western Sydney.
For those unfamiliar with my particular style of whining about movies, let me catch you up by breaking it down to a simple thought that seems to repeat itself in a lot in my reviews:
“I’ve seen this movie before.”
It happened as early as a couple of weeks ago when I spoke on air about the Russo Brothers’ Netflix thriller, The Gray Man.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Gray Man, I just liked it more when it was called The Bourne Identity.
So when I first heard about Here Out West, an anthology film about life in the western suburbs of Sydney, I was equal parts excited to see a movie I undoubtedly hadn’t seen before and frustrated that it took this damn long to see it!
The story of Here Out West is set in motion by a desperate new grandmother, Nancy. With her daughter unable to keep her new-born (due to un-specified trouble with the law) and determined to make up for her own mistakes as a mother, Nancy kidnaps the child and flees the hospital.
From here, we follow a series of different stories that either intersect with Nancy’s or begin as a direct result of her actions.
These chapters each have a different writer, bringing a unique perspective to life out west.
Now fair warning, the amount of intersection between these stories is minimal.
It’s really just a device to justify multiple stories. There seemed little examination of WHY these specific stories were interconnected.
A more pedantic commentator would now speculate how the interconnectedness could have been the central focus.
How the stories themselves maybe should have been secondary to a larger idea about how our actions affect people we never meet, in ways we’ll never know.
Then, naturally, make a host of comparisons to Magnolia and that one episode of The Simpsons.
But honestly, I’m glad that Here Out West wasn’t interested in having these discussions.
What makes this movie great isn’t the format, it’s honesty of the characters and its realised, grounded setting.
We meet Ashmita, the daughter of an Indian father and White Australian mother who’s forced to confront her relationship with her culture in her father’s last moments.
We meet Keko, a Kurdish musician who’s sacrificed nearly everything to bring his family safely to Australia, and may have to sacrifice even more now that he’s here.
Me meet Winnie, a Chinese immigrant whose resilience and brilliant eccentricism have helped her thrive in her new home, but now faces losing both her livelihood and her relationship with her daughter.
Any of these individual stories could have easily been expanded into a standalone feature with its own unique story to tell.
My only really strong disappointment is just that I wanted more.
If you can accuse any individual chapter of being weak, it’s only because they tried to tell too big a story within the constraints of the format.
Brother Tom and Closing Night both stand out as chapters with rushed conclusions but that doesn’t mean that these aren’t great stories. They are just as refreshing as any other but would have benefited from a different format, more money and more time.
This isn’t just a movie I’ve never seen before. This is eight movies I’ve never seen before.
Now I just hope we don’t have to wait that long to see these stories told again.
Here Out West is now streaming on ABC iView.
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