“Last Stop Larrimah” is a funny little documentary. Set in the Australian Outback, in a tiny town with a population of 11 people, the film first gives a picture of a group of wisecracking citizens—mostly elderly—who call this middle-of-nowhere place home. They share stories of late-night revelries at the local watering hole (the only bar in town) and proudly point to the lack of a police station but the presence of a pet crocodile. The rusty bush landscape soaked in the orange sun makes Larrimah feel like an ideal retirement spot. But, as is always the case, there is trouble in paradise.
On December 16, 2017, town fixture Paddy Moriarity and his dog went missing. They haven’t been seen since. As director Thomas Tancred investigates what exactly happened to Paddy, a cadre of characters seemingly ripped from a Coen brothers movie spill their devilishly messy rivalries and grudges in “Last Stop Larrimah.”
Told in five chapters, the prologue initially paints Paddy as an affable chap—the proverbial life of the party. He is also the cliche of an Australian man: Loud and boisterous, driving a four-wheeler with an open can of beer while wearing a slouch hat. Who would want to harm Paddy? It turns out quite a few people. The straight-talking Fran, a self-proclaimed meat pie aficionado, shares her deep disdain toward him. It appears Paddy was a next-door neighbor from Hell. He was quick to undermine, stir shit, and maybe even commit arson. Married couple Karl and Robbie also disliked him. There are so many motives tucked within each one of these people that you get to a point where everyone is a suspect.
That open possibility guides Tancred to uncover each person’s secret. As we switch from suspect to suspect, back and forth to reporters and cops, we return to the same clues: When Paddy left the bar on the night of his disappearance, he did return home; there were no signs of a struggle in his home; and two unknown calls from a payphone outside of Paddy’s house were also made at dusk. Over a nearly two-hour runtime, the repetition of these details can wear thin, especially as very few cogent themes—particularly the global increase of these kinds of ghost towns—arise from the mayhem.
Every scene, effective but long in the tooth, is built on the entertainment value of these oddball figures, sorta like “Tiger King” but less gross and exploitative. You want to hang out with these people, even when it’s clear the party is long past over. Their frankness, their freewheeling lifestyle, their rebellion against authority and structures—no one there trusts the cops, rules, or borders—make them a story of the one time you met that eccentric person you talk about at the bar. Even when “Last Stop Larrimah” sags due to Tancred’s unwillingness to cut some darlings (an understandable hesitancy for someone who’s been working on this film for a few years), these unique subjects are enough to make this a cozy true-crime night in.
On HBO on Sunday, October 8th.
Last Stop Larrimah (2023)
- Thomas Tancred
- Jesse Gohier-Fleet
- Michael X. Flores
- Chris Donlon
- Jody McVeigh-Schultz
- Thomas Tancred