Fresh from Cinequest Film Festival, the short film Here & Beyond by Colin West sticks in the memory of Susan Omand...
A scientist is diagnosed with dementia and, with the help of his angsty teenage neighbour, attempts to use a time machine to relive his memories.
There is so much more happening in this sensitively played out short film than the pithy synopsis above would have you believe.
Yes, there is a time travel element to it, several in fact. There’s the physical trial and error of the time machine in the garage but there’s also a lot of focus on memories and nostalgia, the importance of keeping the past alive but also the suggestion that you also need to live in the present while you can.
There were also some really nice little “blink and you’ll miss it” touches in the filming that highlighted the confusion associated with dementia without being too in-your-face about it; a newly-brewed coffee pot suddenly empty, a sign on the wall that no longer makes sense.
I also really liked how the film itself is presented, using the format of an old videoed children’s science show, the titular Here and Beyond, which starred the old man Mac in his younger day with his scientist wife Ruth, as inspiration for the film’s own credits, even down to showing the VHS tracking and the clunks and clicks of the tape working in the machine. It’s details like those that add a richness to the viewing experience.
But more than that, Here and Beyond is about the characters themselves. Mac and his wife Ruth, played by Greg Lucey and Christine Kellogg-Darrin, had such a wonderful chemistry on the small-screen in the videos of the science shows that Mac watches that, even though we never saw them together outside of that, you could easily believe theirs was a loving relationship and see why he missed her so much. Greg Lucey himself was superb as Mac on his own too, in many ways he reminded me of the much-missed John Hurt, both physically and in his ability to play engagingly emotive characters without much need for words. The other main character in the short film, “angsty teen” Tess, was played beautifully by Laurel Porter and thankfully not angsty at all. In fact, I feel that, should this short be made into a feature at any point, I’d like to have known more about Tess’ story as it feels like there is a lot more to be explored there, not least why her family have to move so regularly.
The only character I didn’t really believe in for this short was the doctor, who we never actually see on screen but whose interaction with Mac is important in progressing the dementia storyline. I hasten to add that it was nothing about the acting but I felt that, even though the doctor was dealing with a scientist who would obviously appreciate objectivity and factual information, the dialogue seemed to be too abrupt. I mean, when your newly-diagnosed dementia patient tells you that his wife is dead, you don’t just tick a box and suggest “a purge” of photos and things that remind them of her “to make it easier in the long run,” there is surely a more diplomatic way to achieve the same thing. It just felt a bit clunky in what was otherwise a delicate and nuanced film that cleverly walks a line between making the viewer empathise but not feel sorry for Mac and the future he faces.
Image - Courtesy Colin West