Director David Ceaser, the bloke who made Idiot Box and the less successful Mullet, is back in his first film since his 2002 hit Dirty Deeds. David Stratton thought it was ‘Rather wonderful’, now Victoria Nugent has taken his latest slice of Australiana for a roll.
Prime Mover tells the story of a young man and his struggle between the two loves of his life: his long-held trucking truck driving dreams and the gypsy-like Melissa, an attendant at the local service station.
Set in the NSW town of Dubbo, the film centres around Tom, who’s stuck working at the truck stop as a detailer, but dreams of becoming a truck driver. He spends time getting clocking up enough hours to get his licence, during which he meets Melissa.
Cue instant romance.
The two have a whirlwind courtship and soon enough Melissa gets pregnant and they decide to get married. The wedding would have to be one of my favourite scenes of the film: its quirky romance and emotional drama makes it a real highlight.
The shocking death of Tom’s father early in the film motivates him to leave the truck stop and buy his own truck. Unfortunately, he has no choice but to source the money from a loan shark and is soon struggling under a crippling debt. He resorts to drugs to stay awake on the road while his relationship with Melissa suffers because of his constant absence.
Although the film initially seemed slightly clichéd, I soon found myself swept up by the love story and the drama resulting from Tom’s truck driving ambition. The narrative arc swerves between light amusement and gritty dilemmas relatively effortlessly, however the ending comes across slightly contrived and lacking realism, which is unfortunate as it takes away from what is otherwise a very enjoyable film.
Music plays an important part throughout the film; the gypsy music that Melissa loves, forms a unifying thread and ties the various parts of the film together. Splashes of colour enhance the film’s cinematography, but some surreal techniques jarred slightly, failing to mesh well with the rest of the film. Perhaps these could have easily been left out.
I found myself at times wanting to hit Tom with a blunt object, wishing he would just come to his senses, but actor Michael Dorman must credited for his convincing portrayal of a man well and truly troubled. In my opinion though, Emily Barclay is the real shining star in this film, putting in a wonderful performance as Melissa. It is the relationship between these two characters that breathes life into the film, but the viewer is made to understand very early on that nothing about their love is going to be simple. During a rather off-putting love scene, Tom excuses himself to fetch a huge spanner which he then asks Melissa to pose with. It is that moment that really signals the magnitude of Tom’s love for his truck and made me uneasy about his obsession.
The criminal elements of film dragged a bit at stages, and it is instead all the emotional conflict that makes the film so notable. Though the drama driving (so to speak) Prime Mover may feel forced, the film’s quirky heart more than makes up for it.
DVD Special Features
Audio commentary with director David Caesar
Four behind-the-scenes featurettes
–> Locally through Madman.