The Going Away Party is a movie about depression. And, as such it’s a short that is bound to…hey, where are you going? Don’t leave…seriously…stick around for the rest of my review…
Okay, okay…I know…indie movies about depression always ring an imaginary alarm in my head too. It’s an overused topic for young filmmakers (depression, grief, and suicide) that is almost always based on generic emotional beats and usually features a lot of people stoically looking at the sunset or a shot of someone pretending to drown underwater. But, writer, director, and actor Connor Hurley (who we were first introduced to with his spectacular sci-fi short, The Naturalist) has crafted something that I feel is a bit different here—a film with a sharp, sardonic sense of humor that is oddly touching. It’s clear this is a very personal film for Mr. Hurley. Not only does he write and direct, but he even plays the lead character (a man also named “Connor”). In that sense, it’s a very different film from The Naturalist—less a science-fiction “idea” piece and more an internalized character study. It’s a short that focuses on how one can feel “off” and completely detached from the world, but does so with an offbeat comedic sensibility and terrific timing. In other words, it’s a depression movie that never takes itself too seriously. And, thank goodness for that—suicide could use a bit more levity.
I say that last statement tongue in cheek, but The Going Away Party does an excellent job of examining how inherently ridiculous the world can seem when you don’t feel like you are a part of it—from therapy sessions to party-going to grandmotherly visits. When depressed, all of it can feel like bizarre rituals performed by some sort of exotic species.
As Hurley relates via e-mail, “I was going through a rough spot, and was on a slew of medications that didn’t do much for me besides possibly aiding in these crazy vivid dreams I was having.” One such dream inspired the film—this idea that you would attempt to kill yourself and even hold an event to commemorate the occasion, but really nobody would really care. Obviously, This concept resonated strongly with Hurley.
The film does suffer from “abrupt, unsatisfying ending” syndrome (something that seems to be going around the ether in the short form), and to be completely honest, I think The Naturalist is stronger piece of isolated work. But, it’s clear that Mr. Hurley is a very talented filmmaker with a defined voice—a voice we very much would like to champion on this humble short form curation site. Fortunately, he has a lot more in store for us, including more short films, web series, and a feature film that he will be shooting in 2016. You can keep up to date at his website.