(Austin Texas’ South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival runs March 10-19. Stay tuned to Hammer to Nail for our usual great coverage like this movie review of Last Stop Larrimah. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
True crime documentaries, docuseries and podcasts are all the rage right now whether you like it or not. I’ll leave it to someone smarter than me to dive into the psychological reasoning behind this phenomenon but my guess is these types of media stimulate parts of the brain where we are entertained but also engaged trying to stay one step ahead of what’s being shown to us onscreen and beat these creators at knowing “whodunnit” before the reveal. And, for their part, producers behind most true crime stuff have to play a rather manipulative version of a shell game. See, they have all the information, know who did what, who was guilty and how this will all unfold but, in deference to storytelling, have to string it out. It would be incredibly easy to spoil any true crime story via a simple Google search in regard to the situation. But, where’s the fun in that? Which brings me to Last Stop Larrimah, a truly crazy entry into the true crime documentary pantheon.
The doc, directed by filmmaker Thomas Tancred, a veteran of reality TV series, and produced by the Duplass Brothers and defacto Duplass sister, Mel Eslyn, the film tells the tale of a tiny town in Northern Australia called Larrimah. As the curtain raises, we discover that Larrimah was a once vibrant and fun sort of “pit stop town” people would swing through on their way somewhere else. Get some gas, grab a few beers or a famous meat pie, maybe stay the night and be on their way. Now the population is 12, or, was until rabble-rousing Larrimah resident and Irish expat Paddy Moriarty goes missing. One would think in a town of around a dozen people, this would be an easy case to solve. Yet as the story unfolds, we are introduced to the myriad tensions, secrets and personal issues between the townsfolk. Never has the old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” been shown so well.
While indeed, Last Stop Larrimah plays like any true crime product, it’s impressive Tancred and company stumbled upon this story as it’s not only a “truth is stranger than fiction” type of situation, the town of Larrimah seems to have amassed a small group of the biggest assholes in the entire Australian continent, none bigger than Moriarty himself. A fixture at the Larrimah Hotel pub, Moriarty at first comes off as one of those pub dwelling, rapscallion, life of the party kind of guys. Quick with a joke or to break out a routine of cracking two bullwhips at the same time, Moriarty seems like a good ole boy. However as the film goes on, we quickly realize that he’s the worst kind of local resident. He’s duplicitous and incessantly stirs up shit, starting rumors and always seeking to discredit a few of the townsfolk who are trying to make a living. It’s not surprising that they’re women. Also not surprising is no one in Larrimah, particularly the men, will do anything to stop this jerk from trying to manipulate, well, everything as it might ruin the vibe at the pub. In short, it’s not a huge surprise to anyone in the town or watching this doc that Moriarty would some day go missing, dude had it coming.
Alas, murder is wrong and for all the cross-pollinating tensions between Larrimah residents (most of whom seem to seems to subsist on a strict diet of cheap beer and an occasional meat pie), no one feels super great that there’s probably a murderer in their midst. But what was surprising to me was how openly nearly everyone on camera just blurts out whatever comes to mind when it comes to accusations, personal beefs or general trash talking. One would think that with a potential cold-blooded killer in your general area a film where you’re talking mad shit might be seen by him or her and consequences may unfold. Yet I’ll just give props to Tancred and company for being good enough filmmakers to get these outback folks talking.
As is the case with many true crime things that focus on, well, not-too-bright people, Last Stop Larrimah can be viewed as a bit problematic, poverty porn. But in regards to what I said above about these types of media hitting certain parts of our brain that signal joy, feeling you’re way smarter than those onscreen is always a nice morale boost. But Last Stop Larrimah also gave me pause at how life for some people is just a slow march towards the inevitable with zero aspirations to do anything more than exist. It also reminds you that small minded, hurt people who abuse their bodies are likely feeling a deep pain inside of themselves that gives them reason to try and drag others down to their level in order to feel better about their lousy life. While I think ultimately the film was made because the story and characters involved were a documentarians pot of gold, it does have a fairly melancholy fog pervading throughout. Last Stop Larrimah is coming soon to HBO.
– Don R. Lewis (@ThatDonLewis)
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)
2023 SXSW Film Festival; Thomas Tancred; Last Stop Larrimah documentary movie review