West

 
Directed by: Daniel Krige
Written by:Daniel Krige
Starring: Khan Chittenden, Nathan Phillips, Gillian Alexy, Michael Dorman, Anthony Hayes, David Field
Released: July 12, 2007
Grade: A-

Set in the western suburbs of Sydney, West takes us into the lives of two young men who live in a world consumed by sex, drugs and alcohol.  This isn’t exactly new material.  Twelve months ago, we saw Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish star in Candy - an Australian film with similar themes.

That said, West is a still a strong film.  It is violent, shocking and confronting.  It highlights issues that a big problem for today’s teenagers in lower-class societies.  There’s plenty of food for thought.

The central characters in the film are Pete (Chittenden) and Jerry (Phillips), two cousins who live together.  Pete is a small-time drug dealer who gets his product from bigger players.  Jerry is trying to clean up his act and has accepted a job at a McDonalds-like fast food store.  Each night, you’re likely to find them drinking at a local pub and trying to pick up women.  If unsuccessful on the female front, they’ll hide out in the canals and smoke weed.

When it comes to women, Jerry is the one who always knows what to do and say.  He’s had many one-night stands and loves to brag about it.  Pete is the exact opposite.  His quiet, shy disposition sees him freeze up in the company of women.

At the pub one evening, Jerry and Pete meet Cheryl (Alexy), an attractive blond-haired girl with a bold personality.  Both fall for her but of course it’s Jerry that takes her home.  It becomes more than a one-night stand though and they start spending more and more time together.  This leaves the jealous Pete on the outer.

I’ve just touched the surface of what is an interesting story.  I really enjoyed the dialogue from writer-director Daniel Krige and the characterisation from the young Australian cast.  These characters are dumb and immature but that’s what I liked about them.  They remind me of kids I see roaming the Brisbane streets at night.

One problem the filmmakers recognise is that a film like this is often seen by the wrong people.  It is shown at boutique cinemas (such as the Palace or Dendy) which aren’t frequented by young audiences.  So whilst this film is being released in just 8 cinemas across Australia, they’ve made sure that it’s screening at one particular cinema frequented regularly by teenagers – the Greater Union George St cinemas in Sydney.  It’s good to see.

It’s worth noting that West is rated MA and contains “strong themes, violence and drug use, strong sex scenes and coarse language”.  I believe it’s all necessary to the story but those perturbed by sex and violence might want to give it a miss.  There were a couple of walk outs at my screening.  I stuck it out (although it did give me a bit of a shock) and was happy to have done so.  It left an impression.