Conor Toner’s marvelous short film Everything Looks Simple from a Distance is a thoughtful film that takes an emotional turn in the last few minutes. Cailum Carragher gives us an excellent performance as our idealistic lead.
It’s 1969. The Americans have not landed on the moon yet, and political tensions are mounting in Northern Ireland. Noah, an idealistic inventor, has a unique yet naïve idea. One that he believes will unite the country’s battling factions in a shared dream of progress, putting an end to the growing violence, for Northern Ireland to land on the moon.
For the first 8 minutes of Conor Toner’s Everything Looks Simple from a Distance, there is an unconditional lightness to the film. Noah is practising away at his pitch, and you can’t help but chuckle a little bit as he tries to refine it to make it the best possible thing he can. Even when his pitch for us to somehow get to the moon is falling on the death ears of politicians and priests, the film keeps its comedic tone, and you find yourself smiling at his near-boundless optimism.
Then we get to Noah and Niall in the car, and reality hits us like the sharpest slap in the face, as you could imagine. That reality sets in even more when we see the dire lengths Noah has gone to pitch this idea, how desperate he is to stop any chance of death within the communities. This dramatic left turn flips your thoughts about Everything Looks Simple from a Distance. Gone is the lightness; instead, a large ball in the pit of your stomach emerges, a lump in your throat is present, and fear for our duo overwhelms you.
Rarely has a line felt more alive with the threat than when the last person Noah pitches to utters, “Time’s Up”? It’s not just times up for Noah’s dream, but so much more. Like many were back then, Noah is terrified of what impending doom the country was hurtling itself towards in the late 60s. He wanted to unite, even in a scheme that he most likely knew would not work. He wanted everyone in Northern Ireland to find a common cause to stop further violence, thanks to Cailum Carragher.
Carragher does some brilliant work here, able to switch between comedic and dramatic on a dime; he has the audience in the palm of his hand here in Everything Looks Simple from a Distance. We know that Northern Ireland couldn’t build the type of rocket needed to send someone (especially a priest to the moon to say Mass), but his sheet idealistic enthusiasm has you. You almost want someone to say yes to see how Noah manages it. Yet his performance shines brightly when that pitch becomes a haunting plea.
What perhaps hurts you when you watch the short film is how you realise those differences present 54 years ago in this film set haven’t gone away and most likely will never go away. It feels as if Northern Ireland isn’t made for the dreamers of this world, and those like Noah who want the country to be the best it can be are on the losing side of things. Conor Toner has given us such an interesting short film to think about with Everything Looks Simple from a Distance; if you can, search it out.
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