THESE FINAL HOURS is the new independent Australian feature that was invited to screen in the prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. Now it released in Australian cinemas for our consideration. The film portrays the last day on Earth. Perth, Western Australia will be the final place to burn in the aftermath of a meteor strike. The film begins with a montage that informs the audience that Perth has less than twelve hours left. James (Nathan Phillips) is in a house by the sea with a young woman, Zoe (Jessica de Gouw). She wants him to stay. He wants to go. His plan is to travel to a party where he can get “f*cked up”. When the end comes he doesn’t want to feel anything.
James drives through the suburbs alone to the party, but is waylaid by a potentially horrific incident. He saves a young girl called Rose (Angourie Rice) who has become separated from her father. His simple plan has been disrupted by this child; however James is not the sort of person who puts the needs of others before his own. How this works out is the substance of the movie.
THESE FINAL HOURS is written and directed by Zak Hilditch and produced by Liz Kearney, both of whom come from Perth. The rules of good reviewing require me to say I know these two before I write anything further. Readers may detect some bias in this review, but I will state unashamedly that these filmmakers have done an excellent job in burning the planet, and our mutual hometown, to a crisp.
The last hours are shown in a series of vignettes across suburban streets. Some are violent. Some are spiritual. Some are disturbing. There are bodies. Burnt out vehicles. People are praying. Others are having sex. Some places seem almost entirely unaffected, but just around the corner there is always something unexpected on its way. James and Rose journey through the suburbs alert to the possibility of danger.
The story unfolds speedily and never drags. Nathan Phillips does a solid job in revealing some of the inner qualities in a guarded character who is forced by circumstance to go against his usual instincts. Angourie Rice is wonderful as the figurative heart of the film. The other actors are also well cast. Daniel Henshall plays James’s gun-toting, mohawked friend Freddy and Kathryn Beck is James’s girlfriend Vicky. Both make their mark. Notable also are Sarah Snook in a very creepy part and veteran actor Leanne Curran.
THESE FINAL HOURS is a bleak subject for a movie. Hilditch is aware of this and has rightly described it as an apocalyptic love letter to Perth. He has found a redemptive strand to this tale and this gives the audience a reason for staying the course. David Michod’s THE ROVER, the recent film about a dystopic Australian future, is somehow bleaker despite its being about survivors. THESE FINAL HOURS is more forgiving of humanity. There is a moment, just before the end of the film where I was particularly moved by the story and the images and I believe most audiences will feel the same. Ultimately, we are rewarded for travelling with James across the blighted suburban landscape.
THESE FINAL HOURS is currently in Australian cinemas. It runs for 87 minutes. I gave it a rating of 8/10.
Our interview with Zak Hilditch and Liz Kearney is here