Review by Mark Schwab
April 21st, 2018
Australia is almost always a solid and reliable source of cinema. When I think of films from the past that have come from Down Under, great titles snap to mind quickly - Nick Roeg's thought-provoking WALKABOUT, Peter Weir's haunting PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK and the unabashed fun of Stephan Elliot's THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT. Aussie's just seem to instinctively know how to shoot beautiful films on their unique topography. With this history, Ren Thackham continues the strong Australian tradition of fine filmmaking with her exquisitely made 6-minute short film ROUND TRIP.
The plot is deceptively simple on the surface; we are in a police car with one officer Rose (Danny Bolt) who is driving a prisoner named Ned (Lee Priest) to the station for processing. They seem to be in the outback, with just the road and horizon as their companions...what could go wrong? Turns out quite a bit when you have a filmmaking team as creative as this one is.
And this is where I must become a little obtuse since I really feel it is best to watch ROUND TRIP without knowing anything more than my simple plot description above (with a six minute running time, any info can be too much). I will say that an incident happens which then leads to a mystery which then leads to a nightmare situation. All of this is achieved with expert direction by Thackham - using just two people, a police car and a desert (in broad daylight too) I was completely drawn into this scenario and having a great time with it.
A lot of short films attempt either too much with their storytelling with overly complex plots and characters which never get resolved or they feel like out-of-context sequences from a larger film - usually made to raise funds so the movie around it can get made. ROUND TRIP is decidedly neither of those things. It is 6 minutes of weirdness that knows exactly what it is and executes it perfectly.