Writer: Stewart Melton
Director: Caitlin Skinner
If the promise of summer and the easing of lockdown restrictions are too cheery, then perhaps Distance Remaining is the show for you. A collection of three stories set in Scotland, Distance Remaining is a bleak watch featuring an old age pensioner who’s fallen on the floor, a depressed volunteer taking food to people who are shielding, and a boy who has lost his dog at the beach. Scottish noir, indeed.
The first segment is called Rug Rat, and features Dolina MacLennan as the pensioner who has collapsed on the floor and is unable to get up. Of course, this scenario is reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s most powerful monologue, A Cream Cracker Under The Settee starring Dame Thora Hird, and MacLennan also finds something forgotten under the sofa: a bone that her dog has discarded. But this is perhaps where the similarities end as MacLennan’s character curses and shouts in way that Hird would never had done.
However, a good deal of what MacLennan says is hard to discern under her broad Aberdeen accent, and the regional vernacular that she appears to use. Her grandson has just been released from prison and is on his way to the city, but it’s unclear who Donna is, and her memories of her husband are jumbled and are hard to make out. Despite her otherwise strong performance, the story seems protracted for a 20-minute running time.
Also battling with a thin story is Karen Dubar as Lindsay, a furloughed worker who has begun volunteering in the community. It’s her first day on the job, and if she’s not downing cans of Monster and swallowing pills, she’s manically taking selfies that none of her friends on social media comment on or like. Dubar is brilliant as the fragile woman who’s not sure if she’ll get her job back once the pandemic is over, but it’s difficult to watch her breakdown.
Reuben Joseph is equally at breaking point as he loses Cosmo on the beach, after having taking him off his lead, something his parents have told him not to do. As he searches for the dog Cam recalls his difficult days at school, and his isolation on the Scottish ‘island that Wi-Fi forgot’ and he half-heartedly plans his escape, but like the other sections, Cam’s story is barely fleshed out.
Making up somewhat for the narratives’ shortcomings is the fact there is much to enjoy in the way Distance Remaining is shot, especially the first two stories where the set is self-reflexively revealed. Strangely, this postmodern touch doesn’t appear in the final segment but the evening light on the beach is wonderfully captured –or created – and Joesph’s face is aglow with revelation. The sound quality here is perfect too and the images of Cam playing in the tide are nicely realised.
While the production can’t quite conceal that these are character sketches rather than character studies, writer Stewart Melton has definitely caught the loneliness and confusion that many have experienced in the last year. But it’s uncertain whether now is the right time to relive these emotions.
Runs here until 9 May 2021