AFF Review: Kooky Sci-Fi Indie Film 'Everything Beautiful is Far Away'
by Alex Billington
October 29, 2017
I love stumbling upon quirky indie gems that haven't been fully discovered yet, but are totally original and skillfully crafted. Everything Beautiful is Far Away is one of these films, which I decided to see on a whim at the American Film Festival, and I'm very glad I took a chance on it. This homemade indie film was filmed entirely at the Algodones Dunes in California, and stars actors Joseph Cross and Julia Garner. While it is technically sci-fi, set in the near future when cities have continued to expand and massive deserts are all that surrounds them, the film's story is actually more of a metaphor for relationships. It's very similar thematically to Swiss Army Man, addressing the difficulties of loneliness and of love in our modern world.
Everything Beautiful is Far Away is about a man named Lernert, played by Joseph Cross, who is wandering the desert because he doesn't like the city and all of the people in it. He carries with him the head of a robot he built and programmed named Susan. The rest of her body was destroyed by the desert, and now only her head remains, but he has also run out of batteries. One day he discovers a woman lying in the sand. At first she doesn't want to have anything to do with him, but soon she decides to join Lernert on his wandering. The woman is named Rola, played by Julia Garner. From the moment she arrives, it's clear this film is actually about how lonely it is out there and what it's like to find someone that actually means something to you and cares enough to want to be around you, no matter how hard that may be at times. It's that simple.
One of my favorite things about this film is its totally kooky, amusing score by composer Alan Palomo. It's kind of an electro score with all kinds of funky beeps and bloops and synth sounds and other things going on (you can hear a bit of it in this teaser trailer). Honestly, the first time I heard it I thought it seemed out of place, but as it plays throughout the film it enhances the surreal atmosphere of the entire story. This is one of those sci-fi films where the sci-fi elements are very vague, but the score helps remind you that this sci-fi angle is being used as part of the bigger concept to tell a story that should hopefully connect with viewers emotionally. It's not really about being "sci-fi", it's about the characters and what they go through together.
Directed by Pete Ohs & Andrea Sisson, there's a sublime simplicity to Everything Beautiful is Far Away that also helps make it feel even more endearing as a cinematic feature. I greatly appreciate its originality and ambition, they're fully confident in what they're doing here, and they do it with elegance. However, I do feel it's so similar to Swiss Army Man and has the exact same message (to survive loneliness just strive on and stay genuine and maybe one day you will meet someone who will show you the way out) that it didn't completely dazzle me. It is still a one-of-a-kind creation and a quirky little indie gem in its own right. While some of it can be too funky, most of it is charming and amusing. These kind of unique films make me happy, made by people passionate about telling a story dear to them in hopes that others will connect with it, too.