Most movies are about love. What comes in second is probably the classic struggle of good versus evil. But I think if there can be a third contender that is universal for most people, it’s the theme being lost. Whether it is lost a strange land, or lost in an emotional state, we have all been lost at one time or another. Australian filmmaker Michael James Rowland has taken three immigrants, displaced them in a strange land, thrown in a few “Survivor” elements, added another cup of odd humor and given us the film Lucky Miles.
Arun (Kenneth Moraleda), a young Cambodian man, is going to meet his father for the first time in the city of Perth. Armed with a map, that he can sort of read, he has taken a boat with a Japanese fisherman to a remote shore of Australian, entering the country illegally. Along with several other men, he treks east where they find a small town after a day’s walk. They ask about the next bus to the city. Fortunately he is not in the small café when the police come to arrest them all. Seeing the fate of the others sends him running in the opposite direction.
Youssif (Rodney Afif), an Iraqi structural engineer, is fleeting his country in search of diplomatic asylum after the murder of his family and friends. He finds himself on a Japanese fishing boat, which drops him and several other men off at a remote shore of Australia. The fisherman lies about a bus that can be caught just at the top of the dune, and Youssif finds himself trekking with a group of Iraqi men headed west. There is one man in this group that has appointed himself leader of the group. He speaks with certainty about everything, but that does not stop Youssif from questioning him. The first chance the man gets, he chase Youssif off with a knife sending him running in the opposite direction.
Indonesian Ramelan (Srisacd Sacdpraseuth) has his mother to thank for the job on his uncle’s fishing boat, even if the job is helping his uncle to transport illegals to the shores of Australia. But he only has himself to blame when he drops his lighter into the small boat’s engine and causes a fire, thus sinking the boat and landing the three sailors on said abandoned shore. Not thinking about which direction, Ramelan takes off running as soon as he hits the beach because he knows if his uncle catches him, he will kill him.
Eventually the three wanderers run into each other; the first two physically do. They falter as a group trying to make their way across the Australian desert with very little water. Trust does not come easy between the three men. However, they soon realize that the only way they are going to survive is if they work together.
Lucky Miles uses vintage slapstick a la The Three Stooges and moments of classic confusion that one might find in an I Love Lucy episode. It takes more twists and turns than an Alabama country road. And the trio of border patrolmen (Glenn Shea, Don Hany & Sean Mununggurr) are great for more than a few laughs as they pursuit the elusive “two men” who came ashore by boat.
This film says a lot about people overcoming their differences in culture and beliefs when unified by a common struggle for survive. Each character is an outcast in their respective world. Yet they happily, successfully belong to each other in this dire and strange circumstance.
The bookends aren’t really needed. I rather prefer the film without them because it puts me in the frame of mind for a different movie – twice. The sound during the screen what not great, but I am going to decide that this particular screening copy was poor. I forgive the audio for the good content and hope they get it right by the time it hits the Laemmel Theaters. It’s a funny and touching story about belong that most audience will enjoy.
Lucky Miles is the only Australian film of the 2007 AFI Fest, featuring the languages of English, Khmer, Arabic and Indonesian with English subtitles.
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