Connor O’Hara and Jamie Gamache introduce a simple and sentimental ode to male grief in their newly released short film Infinite.
Infinite is a deeply personal project to its director, and it shows.
Connor O’Hara had initially set out to make a short film that better reflected his own experience of young male friendships, believing that shows like The Inbetweeners have contributed to a limited view of how young men interact. He wanted to present male friendship as he knows it. “We’re not just into girls and getting drunk at parties. We have interesting things to say [and] we’re nice to our girlfriends,” he shared in an interview with What We See. “As a 21-year-old, I wanted to make the male role models I wish I had had at 14. Guys who say, ‘I love you’ and who care about each other.”
With the sudden loss of two of his close friends, O’Hara found himself plunged into grief and the realisation that he and his friends were without the emotional tools to handle the pain that comes with losing someone. Through Infinite, O’Hara presents a group of young men as they’re infrequently seen on screen: dealing with the difficult subjects head on, earnestly and openly.
It’s a cathartic and important experience, even when it gets uncomfortable. The film opens to the silhouettes of the film’s characters dancing in front of a large bonfire. The young men are laughing, stumbling about, jumping on each other and knocking each other over as one of their mates swills from a big bottle of liquor. It looks like one of those messy parties you threw together in a field when you were too young to get served in the pub, with shop-bought booze that your older sibling secured for you so you could make the same kind of mistakes you would on a night out – only on a freezing September night near some goal posts.
Something about the reflective music and the slow motion changes the scene, though. There’s something celebratory and, at the same time, melancholy about these beautifully shot opening images.
The scene that follows introduces the premise of the story. George MacKay’s character asks his friends to each select a piece of paper. One reads ‘friends’, one ‘family’ and the others ‘love’, ‘location’ and ‘home’. Following his terminal diagnosis, he is requesting that his friends each find an object that ties the theme on their piece of paper to the pair of them. He plans to build a big fire and burn these memories, making them part of the earth’s atmosphere. “If one is convinced, as I am, that the age of the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, then we can assume that the Earth’s atmosphere will be around the same age,” he begins explaining to his perplexed friends.
“So we can say, when something is burnt, it will turn into carbon dioxide and water vapour and will be dispersed into the Earth’s atmosphere. If something is burnt, it is the purest way for the particles to become everlasting – forever in the Earth’s atmosphere, becoming infinite. This is what I want to do.”
The film shows tremendous affection for its central character’s last request and the friends who agree to go along with it despite their own personal grief and their concern that their friend is trying to put on a brave face. “Mate, you know you don’t have to be okay with all of this? You can be upset. That’s allowed,” says his closest confidante in response to his plan.
Infinite confronts the difficult topic of grief as experienced by young men and refuses to shy away from it. Its focus on its protagonist’s plan and the difficulty of mourning someone who is still with us is unflinching and unashamedly emotional. On first watch, this film can be an uncomfortable experience, and not necessarily on the emotional level you may expect. The interactions themselves are difficult to watch. They’re frank, serious and there’s very little let-up, but it’s vital to ask ourselves why seeing men speaking this way is such an awkward experience. Some may put this discomfort down to clunky dialogue, and admittedly George Mackay does do a great job of elevating some uninspiring exposition, but in many cases the words spoken are moving and sincere. It’s our expectations that likely make us feel uneasy.
As many male mental health campaigns have made reference to in recent years, there’s the societal expectation that ‘blokes just crack on with things’ and ‘get on with it’, no matter how painful the situation. In Infinite, we’re a fly on the wall to the conversations of a terminally ill young man and his friends – and they’re dealing with it with the sincerity it deserves.
The dialogue may feel overly sentimental at times, but that’s the point. If you’re cringing, you too may have internalised the widely held belief that men don’t deal with emotions like this. We’re used to seeing men in pain cracking jokes, ruffling each other’s hair and finding other ways around showing their friends that they love them rather than using the words – either on screen or in real life. There is the expectation that a film about men handling grief should involve more light-hearted moments and laddy ‘banter’ to make it more believable (admittedly, there are moments where you’re almost longing for someone to crack wise to lighten the heavy mood) but Infinite implores its audience to reconsider. What unfolds is a genuinely heartfelt send-off for a character who has thought seriously about his wishes and the memories he wants to leave his friends behind with.
In many ways, it feels like director Connor O’Hara is reimagining how things could have been had he had more time with his late friends. It’s an important depiction of male grief and male friendship, and a moving story about one man’s legacy. As we see the burning fire once again in the film’s closing scene, we’re a million miles from the raucous lads’ night out we may have initially anticipated. We’re watching men healthily expressing their pain.
Infinite can be watched on Vimeo.
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