PLAYWAVE CREATIVE REVIEW: WEST OF SUNSHINE
West of Sunshine
Reviewed by Lara Franzi
West of Sunshine is a critical film that portrays a harsh and authentic experience, shredding apart individuals lost in their game of success. This new Australian release at the annual Sydney Film Festival, doesn’t quite invite you to witness a private moment between Jim, a struggling father and his young son Alex - instead we invade it, ogling as Jim tries to skip past the races and pokies to pay off a dangerous debt.
Jason Raftopoulos shares his soul within this emotional piece, he removes the glamour of success and leaves us with the bitter reality of gamblers. We see the domino effect of family and friends being impacted by Jim’s decision in their small neglectful town. This is a story for everyone, sharing the perspective between an adult’s clumsy choices and a son’s helpless resentment towards the ever-present failures in their lives.
Jim’s character is played flawlessly by Damian Hill, soaking our Melbourne streets with despair and regret. Young Ty Perham illustrates the innocence of Alex who is torn between the rare time he spends with his father, and the agony he witnesses in each of those moments.
We are tossed between a struggle of survival and the thrive for something more. Caught in a spiral of loss; losing time, losing money, losing value.
This insightful film made me consider what makes our lives worth living. Is it the slim feeling of winning that keeps our hearts beating, or is it the low shimmer of love and family that keeps us motivated? I’m at an interesting stage in my life, where I have began balancing my personal interests with the time that I spend with my family. It’s a sharp edge that I sometimes let slip, missing important events and moments.
We are in a time of technology, where we hold our phones closer to us than any partner. Forged within this story is the son’s reliance of playing on the phone, mirroring his fathers own addictive game. Gambling is directed at a young age, the addictive presence of flashing lights and the chirp of machines. It’s taught through the claw grip games lining the walls of cinemas and the fund swollen RSL clubs. Showing kids how to lose a dollar, how to lose two. Crawling around the floor just to find another coin, for just one more chance.
We may glare at gamblers with disgust, thinking of them as big kids, who are stupidly throwing away their money. But it is more than that. It’s an issue buried deep within our roots, its a serious concern that should be treated with respect and dealt with sophistication. In Australia there is no safety net for the amount that can be lost by gamblers, some losing double of their weekly wage in an hour. This is a game of complacency and inevitable failure. By gaining awareness of it, we can implement better strategies to prevent the pointless loss of Australian’s income.
This powerful story claims Jim as a hostage to himself, using excuses, using people and in turn using himself all in the eyes of his son. It’s a beautiful story of love and strength that shouldn’t be missed. Catch West of Sunshine’for it’s final screening on Friday 15th of June as apart of the Sydney Film Festival. Emerge yourself within this rare supportive and creative environment by seeing it on the big screen.