Directed by Nic Barker
Starring Roelene Coleman, Calista Fooks, Sam Macdonald, Gabrielle Savrone, Chris Gibson, Stuart Daulman,
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
“We’re all lonely...everyone.”
Such is the sentiment spoken by one of the characters in Nic Barker’s moving and intense indie drama, Short Distance, and a sentiment which perfect encapsulates the tone of the story. Loneliness within relationships is a major theme in this work, as it was in Barker’s previous short film, Dead Sharks, whereby the two supposedly polarising ideas (being independent or being codependent) are actually not so far apart after all.
Told with a multi-narrative structure, Short Distance focuses its energies on the modern relationship. Using several couples as character studies, Barker’s story tackles multiple issues that people face when it comes to having a monogamous relationship in the modern day. Whilst some themes are actually enduring notions told in movies before, such as the loneliness found when your partner travels a lot, or the entanglement of emotion one can end up in when a relationship fails to move on after it has finished, the aesthetic and tone of this indie film is so genuine and heartfelt, it feels like everything is fresh.
Modern elements have been inserted in order to offer new insight into relationships, such as the role of online dating services. One of the most affecting sequences in the film is the birth of a possible romance between Belinda (Gabrielle Savrone) and Olly (Chris Gibson) who meet online. Their whole journey is utterly enrapturing, not least because both performers turn in outstanding portrayals, but also because their unsteady foundations and distrustful attitudes towards each other are full of conflict and pathos, making for a spectacular watch.
Not quite as stylish or captivating as Dead Sharks, the cinematography in Short Distance is still remarkable. Cityscape scenes are breathtaking in their urban isolation, whilst intimacy is created with close ups of the characters faces during emotionally poignant moments. Barker is such a steady pair of hands when it comes to intense drama that you can watch a movie like this and never once question that what you are watching is anything less than masterful. He just understands human frailty on a level that is not only completely engaging and entertaining, it’s actually informative! Barker also knows when to let his visuals do the talking. Dialogue is not stuffed in for the sake of filler.
There were several moments where I noticed the framing of the characters was off-centre. Whether this was intentional or not, it gave me the impression of some of Tom Hooper’s films, such as The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl. Those films are actually quite a good benchmark if you are trying to decide the audience demographic for a film like this. I would love to see Barker given the budget to make an epic drama like those movies. If I had any criticism of the film, it is that the sound quality was a little poor in places, as was the lighting. This did not spoil the film, it just revealed the potential.
Ultimately it is the themes of this movie that are its fundamental strong points. Ironically it is a story like this, that centres around human concepts such as connection, loneliness and fulfillment, that are the ones that make us question the point of them the most. And whilst you may not get an answer, Short Distance is a film to bring all your baggage to and rejoice in the fact that yes, we are all lonely...together.