Magazine article Metro Magazine

'West': Sex, Drugs and No Control: Two Youths, Cousins, Crouch against a Wall in a Stormwater Canal, Drinking and Talking. 'So, What Are We Going to Do This Year?' Asks Jerry, 'The Same Thing We Did Last Year,' Answers Pete. Jerry Frowns, 'Yeah, but You've Got to Have a Plan.' Pete Demurs-There's No Point in Having Plans, He Insists. 'They Don't Happen. You Get Depressed.'

Magazine article Metro Magazine

'West': Sex, Drugs and No Control: Two Youths, Cousins, Crouch against a Wall in a Stormwater Canal, Drinking and Talking. 'So, What Are We Going to Do This Year?' Asks Jerry, 'The Same Thing We Did Last Year,' Answers Pete. Jerry Frowns, 'Yeah, but You've Got to Have a Plan.' Pete Demurs-There's No Point in Having Plans, He Insists. 'They Don't Happen. You Get Depressed.'

Article excerpt

THIS opening to West, debut feature from writer-director Daniel Krige, concisely, if somewhat clumsily, elucidates the film's central theme, and the next ninety-odd minutes are spent driving the point home. Following the aimless lives of youths inhabiting Sydney's outer-western suburbs, the film is about hope versus despair, ambition versus entropy, about whether it's possible to achieve escape velocity from a sense of hopelessness that exerts the gravitational pull of a black hole.

Pete (Khan Chittenden) and Jerry (Nathan Phillips) are cousins and best friends. They spend their time kicking around the streets of Sydney's outer west: drinking, smoking dope and picking up girls. Jerry is the gregarious, popular one, a young man at ease with himself and with others; Pete is awkward and self-conscious.

When Cheryl (Gillian Alexy), sassy, sexual and confident, walks into their lives, she catches the eye of both cousins, but Jerry's natural charm sees him walk away with the prize. Pete is left to lust after his mate's new girlfriend, and the scene is well and truly set for trouble.

In the meantime, another sort of trouble finds Pete. He's a dope dealer, and the same evening that Jerry is getting busy with Cheryl for the first time, a gang of toughs led by local thug Kenwood (Anthony Hayes) bash Pete and rob him of his drugs and earnings. Bloodied and sullen, Pete reports the news to his supplier and friend Steve (Tim McCunn), who is on the whole pretty understanding about the incident--he gives Pete a package of harder stuff to sell in order to make up the loss.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jerry, looking to make something of himself, takes a mind-numbing job working at a local fast-food chain. While Jerry is busy deep-frying chicken nuggets, Pete and Cheryl give in to their mutual attraction on a turbulent night that promises to bring dire consequences.

The cinema of despair

Treading the same ground as Mallboy (Vincent Giarrusso, 2001) and The Boys (Rowan Woods, 1998), Krige's film is a study of life among the disenfranchised in the outer suburbs of Australia's urban centres. Both of these other films, in their own way, touch on themes explored in West, namely the oppressive feelings of hopelessness engendered by growing up marginalized, and the ways that people react when placed under these conditions--turning to crime or self-destructive behaviour, or trying desperately to escape their low-flying trajectory.

Inevitably West has been compared to the recent batch of Australian 'drug' films, such as Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005), Candy (Nell Armfield, 2006), and Em4Jay (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2006). Understandable, since, like them, it features dark subject matter and there are drugs aplenty throughout the story. However, Krige's film stands apart from these in that, despite all the casual drug taking and drug selling the characters do, in the final analysis the drugs are largely inconsequential. This is no more a drug film because the characters take drugs than it is a sex film because the characters have sex.

This approach to drugs enhances the authenticity of the film; the drugs are present as an inalienable feature of the characters' lives, rather than as the prop for some kind of moral lesson. No judgement is passed on Pete for selling drugs--in fact, this aspect of the plot is barely commented on. If anything, West makes a pretty good case for drug dealing as a viable career choice for those living in marginalized socio-economic situations. When the best alternative is a dead-end job in a fast-food franchise, why not sell some pot?

Having said that, ultimately many of Pete's troubles come from the violence and crime attendant on the world of drug dealing, but these aspects are more of a staging ground for Pete's rage and confusion to play out. In the end the truly horrific events of the story are caused by those old passions and frailties of humanity: frustration, lust, love and despair. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.