WEST OF SUNSHINE is a thesis on love, free will and intergenerational trauma. I wanted to explore how a person deals with the cycle of loss and abandonment, what they do to relieve themselves of that pain and how they find the strength and insight to break free of patterns and start again.
Jim is yet to confront the pain of his own abandonment and although he loves his wife and son, he hasn’t been present for them. He is in the throes of pain management in the form of gambling and unconscious of the true impact of his own father’s abandonment. These problems have manifested because Jim was roughly the same age as Alex is now when his father left without a trace.
How Jim finds insight into this pain is the story of the film. He will learn that love is not some idea or a feeling but a choice he can make, where the acceptance of love from his son, his wife and of himself is what matters. He can choose to love and be loved.
Cinematically I took inspiration from the Italian Neo Realists, documenting the events unfold. However, my aim was to find the moments in the film where I could push the genre and heighten the subtext to the sublime with pure cinematic storytelling.
As a director I want to turn the eyes and ears of the audience on, to see the glorious in the mundane, to feel connected to the human experience and be in awe of what surrounds us. It’s easy to take the little things for granted, a car wash or a haircut are simple acts but they can reveal the beauty in the small, and this for me is where life is.
The production’s look and feel was made for narrative effect. The sunshine, the heat of the day adding to the oppression. The city of Melbourne is a character in the film, from skyscrapers, streetscapes factories and homes. I wanted the urban existence in which these characters live to play a part in the subtext of the film: how modern life is impacting our society both good and bad. It’s an oppressive structure that weighs on Jim and everyday families.
Authenticity drives all my choices and eliciting honest performances from actors and non-actors was key to creating that in the film. Story is told through the eyes and reactions of the actors and my love and preparation for their process was detailed and specific. My job was ultimately to create an environment on set where they could live unencumbered, regardless of the difficulties of the shoot. It’s one of my proudest achievements in the film.
Finally, I’ve lived with story for years. Cinema has always been for me about ideas, about contributing to the fabric of our society, of sharing the human experience we are all going through and if in telling the story we raise consciousness in even a small way then I have achieved my goal. I hope WEST OF SUNSHINE finds its place in the world and brings people an experience that comes straight from the heart.