Two close male cousins, who spend their days larking about and smoking pot, find their relationship tested when they fall for the same girl. The added issues of seual activity and conflicting loyalties mess with their drug-addled minds.


I grew up in Sydney's Western suburbs in the 1980s so I can verify that the film “West” -- with its makeshift bongs, flannie shirts and bottles of Passion Pop -- is an accurate reflection of that specific time and place.

And that's the thing that bewildered me –
West is set now, so the 1980s details no longer ring true.

Writer-director Daniel Krige began his script back in 1986, when he was a teenager living out west.

But times have changed and his film hasn't changed with them.
Where are the kids of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian or African descent?

The kids who dress like American teenagers? Want careers in marketing or IT? Hang out at megamalls, when they're not at home updating their myspace pages?

Krige totally ignores this demographic shift – these people and places aren't even seen in the background.

West is all about Caucasian yobs. Their parents live in fibro shacks and the only jobs going are in fast food.

Although there are aspects of West I found immensely frustrating, I found the performances compelling.

Khan Chittenden, who we recently saw in Clubland, makes the knuckleheaded Pete sympathetic initially.
But as he gets into harder drugs and violence, it's hard to stay on his side.

Especially when he continues to betray the one thing sacred to him – his lifelong friendship with his cousin Jerry.
The consequences are death and destruction.

As the marginally more aware Jerry, Nathan Philips is a warmer character -- and, against all odds, Michael Dorman makes the very disturbed Mick into a poignant figure.

Even so, West's unrelenting bleakness wore me down.
It's a world where suicide is a measure of control over destiny.

Or a character's rapist ambitions are only thwarted by him becoming paraplegic.
I think Daniel Krige is a talented writer and director.
He builds a strong sense of dread and several scenes pack a gut-punch.
His dialogue is authentic, and the visuals are strong.
But it's all in service of a monotonal portrait of a place as he remembers it, rather than as it is today.

West needed to be set in the 1980s. Or made relevant to today.

I look forward to hearing what Movie Show viewers from western suburbs think of the film.
That is, if they get to see it because West is only on limited release in inner city cinemas.

For its filmmaking craft and strong performances, I'm giving the film 2 1/2 stars. West is in cinemas now.

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