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Dorothy (Wendy Hughes) and Dashiell (Chris Haywood) are retired and living the perfect life in their own little haven, although Dash doesn't realize it. Unlike Dot, who makes the most of everything, Dash is perpetually bad tempered and inconsiderate, disappearing constantly into his own world in his back shed. When daughter Kate (Susan Prior) and her husband Tim (Russell Dykstra) surprise them with tickets for a mystery train tour for their 40th wedding anniversary, Dash is his usual negative self, but Dot's had enough and tells him to make an effort or she'll leave.

Review by Louise Keller:
The magic might be in the mystery when it comes to a surprise mystery train tour, but there's no mystery in that this funny and uplifting film about finding your own little slice of heaven, is jam-packed with magic. Winners of 2006 Project Greenlight filmmaking competition, brothers Kenn and Simon Macrae have directed and written a wonderful script that simply sings with truth. There's an undercurrent of pathos beneath the light façade and we readily recognise that the quirky and the ridiculous conceal serious undertones. The characters are real, the situations irresistible and the journey one you will not regret, or forget. I loved every minute of this instantly involving film in which our hearts smile, weep and turn corners just like the train that carries its passengers to its mystery destination.

You have a gift for mean, Dot tells Dash as another thoughtless comment dampens the mood when they set out on the trip on which their relationship now depends. We've already met Wendy Hughes' Dot and Chris Haywood's Dash at home in the sleepy little coastal town of Greenhaven which, true to its name, is the essence of tranquillity. Even the coloured clothes pegs look bright through the frangipani trees. The greenery is lush, storks keep watch from telegraph poles and boats are scattered lazily on the calm, cobalt water. But their relationship has become far from tranquil. It is at crisis point, even though Dash doesn't recognise it yet.

Hughes and Haywood are simply superb but they are not the only ones. Performances are all perfectly pitched; every character is important. In fact it is the texture and colour of the supporting players that create the all-important backdrop on which the two central characters are shown. Russell Dykstra steals some of the early scenes with his dead-pan delivery of the crackling dialogue as the son-in-law with no time or regard for Dash, and Susan Prior injects great subtleties into the caring daughter, Kate. There's Rhonda Doyle as the fat woman with the loud, shrieking laugh ('Dot Dot Dot, Dash Dash Dash, Dot Dot Dot; you're an SOS' she cackles at the older couple), Geoff Morrell as Theodore, the veteran mystery tour traveller ('The world is a wonderful place'), Steve Bisley and John Gregg as the town's laziest mechanics ('We all sit to shit') and John McNeill's card of a stationmaster who describes the same thing in half a dozen different ways. There's also a charming, implied romance between Angie Diaz' mystery tour guide Sarah and Marin Mimica's ferry captain Chuck.

Shot in Mudgee and the NSW Central Coast's beautiful Patonga, the film looks gorgeous with special mention to composer Rajan Kamahl for his emotive score that couches us on our emotional journey. As we join this unlikely group for its mystery destination, we learn there's a difference between trying to get through it as opposed to getting into it. As for Dash's all-important question 'How do you get there if you don't know where you're going?' ... although we think we know where the story is heading, there are surprises around every bend and we are well satisfied when we are shown rather than told. Feelgood has never felt so good.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The gentle toughness of the subject is perhaps deceptive, as the MacRae brothers embark on a story about a man who has shut down three decades ago and has just about used up all the leeway his family is prepared to give him. It's a well crafted screenplay from the newcomers, who with experienced producer Martin Brown (of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge fame) had the good sense to cast with great care and surround themselves with experienced talent like editor Tim Wellburn and script editor John Collee.

Chris Haywood makes a real black hole of his character as Dash, the wounded old motorbike rider with a demon he hasn't been able to exorcise for decades, arms folded across his chest to lock out the world. Wendy Hughes delivers a splendid long suffering and loving wife whose exasperation is kept in check by her abiding love and understanding.

Susan Prior and Russell Dykstra are terrific as the young couple (daughter and son in law) and the script gives them breathing room to explore their characters beyond the obvious. Depth, too, in all the supports, even the village shopkeepers and ferry boat captain - who, happily, is not your predictable old crusty cap'n but a young man who wears multicoloured leisure pants and pants after lovely tour guide Sarah - Angie Diaz in a wonderfully pitched characterisation that is both observant and likeable.

The locations around Patonga on the coast north of Sydney (and some at inland Mudgee) are idyllic enough to start an exodus, and the Mystery Train weekend business should get a boost.

The story is well controlled by the MacRaes, who won the $1 million Movie Extra Project Greenlight prize to direct this, their first feature.

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(Aus, 2008)

CAST: Wendy Hughes, Chris Haywood, Russell Dykstra, Angie Diaz, Geoff Morrell, Steve Bisley, John Gregg, Susan Prior, Adam Ray, Rhonda Doyle

PRODUCER: Martin Brown

DIRECTOR: Kenn Macrae and Simon Macrae

SCRIPT: Kenn Macrae and Simon Macrae


EDITOR: Timothy Wellburn

MUSIC: Rajan Kamahl


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Premium Movie Partnership

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2008

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