Connor has broken his nose. His grandma thinks he’s autistic. His psychiatrist says he’s depressed. And somehow…the world just doesn’t care, or take him seriously.
So Connor decides to end his life, and throws himself a “going away party”… an event that only reminds just why he’s exiting existence to begin with.
Writer-director-lead actor Connor Hurley’s short dramedy is a wry, idiosyncratic look at the serious subjects of depression and suicide. It manages the difficult balancing act of taking Connor’s pain seriously, while contextualizing it within a self-absorbed, often callous world that seems ill-equipped to buffer human suffering.
Connor’s story, stripped down to its bare bone essentials, is a sad one. His life is a parade of indifference and insensitivity, and there’s no space in it for compassion, openness or emotion.
All around him, no one seems to register his suffering with any degree of seriousness, and even his friends are too self-absorbed to be there for him. His own family can’t seem to see or accept him as he is. All these dynamics are registered with dry, witty, understated dialogue, which balances ironic absurdity with a very muted sincerity.
But the film itself wraps its story in the packaging of a witty urban comedy, especially with its flourishes of music, slow-motion and a quicksilver sense of pacing. Artistically, it echoes many of the great indie New York comedies of the 90s by filmmakers like Hal Hartley, which combines a low-key sense of naturalism with a quirky ear and eye for oddball, eccentric human behavior.
This blithely glib packaging creates fascinating juxtapositions against Connor’s serious emotional journey. It’s not that it doesn’t take its main character seriously — Hurley calibrates his performance with understated yet genuine pain, and his distress at the world’s indifference is real — but it underscores the way the world around him is uncomfortable with sincere, unabashed suffering and just how apart from the rest of humanity Connor feels. In the face of such deadened sympathy and monumental self-absorption, Connor’s ensuing actions are sad, and yet understandable within the portrayal of the world around him.
“The Going Away Party” frankly has a downbeat ending: there is no moment of connection, reaching out and recognizing someone’s pain in a gesture of sympathy or compassion. It may even feel controversial in its refusal to offer solutions or comfort about such a serious subject matter.
But it is an undeniably bold, even thought-provoking choice, and asks a difficult question through its sardonic, uncomfortable humor. If our world is so ill-equipped to handle human suffering, is it surprising that people feel so cut off from connection that they’d resort to such drastic action?