Two inseparable cousins, Pete (Khan Chittenden) and Jerry (Nathan Phillips), living in the disadvantaged Western suburbs of Sydney, dream of a better life. In the meantime, Pete sells drugs and Jerry gets by ... and both of them drink, smoke and lark about with their troubled friend Mick (Michael Dorman). Their relationship is tested and their lives changed dramatically when they both fall in love with the same girl, Cheryl (Gillian Alexy). Through the conflicting loyalties of friendship, the haze of drugs, forbidden sex and spontaneous violence, they all discover how quickly life can get even worse in the West.
Review by Louise Keller:
Drugs, booze and sex are the main ingredients in the destructive world of cousins Pete and Jerry. They regularly share their angst, frustrations and aspirations in an isolated and dimly lit spot in an underground stormwater canal. It's a sobering tale, where violence, guilt and lies fly their ugly flag, and first time writer director Daniel Krige captures the mood only too well, as we are drawn into the tragedy of the lives of the misfits. Intense and often disturbing, West is a portrait of misguided lives that have gone off the rails. Top performances from Khan Chittenden and Nathan Phillips make Pete and Jerry resonate with us, although the film may find limited appeal beyond festival outings.
"You make plans. They f**k up; you get depressed," Pete bemoans to Jerry in the opening scene, as they drown their sorrows leaning against the stark brick wall in their favourite spot. It is in flashback that we learn what has brought these two best-friends to the point of no-return. Their lives are defined by their backgrounds and the rough company they keep. It is obvious from the first time they meet Gillian Alexy's busty Cheryl, with her tight mini-skirt and brash manner, that both are infatuated by her. Jerry is the one who scores, and the promise of a relationship with a future sets him on the path to a proper, albeit menial job in the local chicken fast food shop. Selling drugs on the street leaves Pete plenty of time to lust after Cheryl and the inevitable happens.
There's a blatant disdain for niceties, with thuggery, bad language and manic behaviour as bad things happen. There's a tragic car accident, a fatal beating and the shrugging of responsibility. "People kill people all the time," Cheryl says defiantly at one point. The relationship between Pete and Jerry is what holds the film together; there's a nice moment when Jerry confides to Pete, his innermost feelings about Cheryl. Tim McCunn's frenetic Steve is at all times frighteningly real, and it is ironic that Michael Dorman's Mick with the symbolic stutter, is the only character that finds a new direction. The final resolution does not work at all for me in this candid and unsettling glimpse of troubled lives. Although the themes may be a valid reflection of a section of youth today, whether being enclosed in its claustrophobic despair is positive or desirable, is questionable.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Technically excellent, thematically depressing and creatively presented, the main thing wrong with West is its impact on my own jaded palate for films about dead end youngsters in suburban jungles killing themselves with drugs, booze and violence. No matter how much I tell myself that this is a mirror image of today's society, I can't find it in myself to engage with films like West (or Candy, say). It is difficult to warm to the characters as they are mostly off their faces, so it is hard to be engaged about the minutiae of their ugly existence. The only place left for the audience to go emotionally is a kind of pity - which of course gets worn down by relentless bouts of self annihilation.
But as I say, the film has merit as a showcase for writer/director (more for the directing part) Daniel Krige, although how widely the film will appeal is questionable. I am not sure who the intended audience is, but the film already carries the laurels of selection for the prestigious Berlin Film Festival (2007).
Drilling down into the specifics, it's worth noting that the sound design and music carry great weight, as does the production design. The performances are gripping from all the cast. Gillian Alexy and Michael Dorman are noteworthy in key support roles, while Khan Chittended and Nathan Phillips throw themselves into their characters with brio.
Some of the dialogue feels 'written' rather than organic, and the unrelenting gloom heightens the screenplay's lack of genuine complexity and real humanity, which undermines the film's appeal.
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CAST: Khan Chittenden, Nathan Phillips, Gillian Alexy, Michael Dorman, Blazey Best, David Field,
PRODUCER: Matt Reeder, Anne Robinson
DIRECTOR: Daniel Krige
SCRIPT: Daniel Krige
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Damian Wyvill
EDITOR: Roland Gallois
MUSIC: Andrew Lancaster, David McCormack, Johnette Napolitano
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marc Barold
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 5, 2007 (NSW, Vic, SA; WA - Jan 08)