In Thomas Tancred’s documentary debut, Last Stop Larrimah attempts to get to the bottom of this mystery as to what happened to Paddy and Kellie. In a small town where everyone seems to know every little thing that happens, no one has anything but assumptions about what happened. As first, Larrimah looks like a simple, but charming place to get away from everything, yet as Tancred interviews the people of Larrimah, we begin to see the secrets, deceptions, hatred, and broken bonds that have shaken this town.
Tancred tells this story in five parts, each giving us a fuller understanding of Larrimah as we attempt to figure out the solution to this mystery. For example, one such segment entitled, “The Great Australian Meat Pie War” introduces us to Fran Hodgetts, who claims to sell “world famous” pies and gives each visitor a stuffed animal with their meal. When the pub decided to also start selling meat pies—which Fran believes was done out of spite—it started a rivalry between Fran and several members of the town, including Paddy. Once Paddy goes missing, some even speculate that Fran might have gone the Sweeney Todd direction and included some Paddy meat into her pies.
While Larrimah’s present is dilapidated and dusty, Tancred shows us the history of Larrimah—from the days when the pub was always full of friends, to fairly recent news stories where both Paddy and Fran discuss their rivalry with each other. As this story is unraveled, Tancred gives us a fascinating look at Larrimah, a place these people won’t leave for seemingly no other reason than because they’ve simply become part of this community. There’s hatred and irritation within this town, but it’s still home.
Tancred also makes sure we understand the layout of this town, which does play a large part in this story and how these people go about their day. The proximity between Fran and Paddy’s certainly didn’t help matters, but it also helps us get a better view of who these people are. We meet Billy, who has lost half his tongue to cancer and after having been married to Fran for decades, was kicked out by her. He still lives close by, missing the wife who decided he wasn’t the one for her supposedly out of nowhere.
Maybe the person who has the best view of the events and people of Larrimah is Richard, who may or may not have been fired by Barry—who runs the bar—for drinking too much, and whose drunken wisdom comes off as the most clear-headed witness to this town’s charade. There’s also Fran’s questionable handyman who refuses to talk to the cameras, and even Fran won’t talk to him, and a pair of couples who put up a united front against the others in the town. Tancred lucked out in finding this cast of eccentric characters, each who has their own motivations, and each with their own unique look at the situation.
We can also feel the amount of time that Tancred has spent with this group, most of whom welcome him and seem to accept him as someone they can talk freely to, and confide in their many issues within this town. Tancred, and by extent the viewer, end up feeling like just another member of Larrimah, sitting around the pub, drinking and gossiping about the other 10 people in town. Tancred also talks to local newspeople and police, showing that even for this area, the events of Larrimah are fairly unique and strange, what with their meat pie wars and alligator enclosures and a dozen people that hate each other. Through this outsider perspective, we can see how these issues have been bubbling up for decades, finally overflowing in recent events.
Some might criticize Tancred’s approach to this mystery, which meanders, goes on tangents, and follows several red herrings over the course of its two hours. Yet it’s precisely that free-flowing style that makes Last Stop Larrimah so unique. Because of this, we get a glimpse into how this town operates based on assumptions, theories, uncertainty towards each other, and the hatred that flows underneath. One rumor might actually be a clue, or it could just be complete bullshit because of something one person said to another two decades ago. This isn’t meandering, it’s a true encapsulation of the gossip and backstabbing that goes on in such a town.
Last Stop Larrimah works as a captivating, twisty mystery that intentionally gets lost in the bush at times, but it also is a story of not getting lost in the past, and the resilience of small towns like this. While it seems at first like this town might fade away as its occupants die away (and disappear, in one case), there’s the possibility of a new start on the horizon, that the dreams that this town once represented might be revitalized by a whole new generation. Paddy might be lost, but this town seems on its way to finding itself out of the darkness.
Last Stop Larrimah debuts at the 2023 SXSW Festival, and will be coming HBO on a future date.