Review: The Farthest

The Farthest

When I was young I used to be fascinated with space. From hoarding every book I could to seeking out tidbits of information in the days before I had my own laptop or internet (shudder).

The obsession even lived on until a rather more embarrassing phase around 15 when I had glow in the dark models and 3D stickers plastered over my roof, painted a night’s sky black.

I’d almost completely forgotten how much the topic of space travel and the science behind it fascinated me, until The Farthest.

Directed by Emer Reynolds, the documentary tells the story of the Voyager missions, and the lives of Voyager One and Two, and the people that made the mission for immortality possible.

From the opening images the film sets the scene for the story perfectly. CGI images of space and models of the spacecrafts blend perfectly with images from the mission itself of the planets and the building process make for an immersive narrative; the story flows, simply put. It is because of this that the film feels like the story of a life rather than a period in history.

Voyager, for those not as astronomically obsessed as I used to be, was a mission by NASA in the 1970s with the aim of doing a ‘planetary tour’, which grew to include a voyage into the depths of space. To go, if you will, the farthest. ba dun tsss

Unfunny jokes aside, the two vessels contain a feature unlike any other mission to come before or after. The Golden Records are two, well, golden records, but what they hold is a mish-mash of every part of humanity.

The film focuses on the two records a great deal, playing into the sentiments of some interviewees who say the golden records are what really captured people’s imagination. It’s what turned the mission from a planetary tour into a mission for immortality, with selections of our music, our voices, and pictures of our world encoded into the simple metal discs.

The Farthest does well not to ignore the science behind the mission either, the first half if not more of the film focused entirely on its inception and the years of work that followed. The ingenuity and genius of the people working on the mission is put across so empathetically as the interviews paint the scientists as dreamers and big kids who never really grew up. It’s a sweet mix between sentiment and science, which is apt given the goal of the mission.

With the world being in the absolute heap it is, there’s something extra touching about this documentary which tries to encapsulate the dream of sending humanity out into the stars. Maybe if we’re lucky aliens will find it and use the encoded coordinates (a map to Earth in relation to the nearest quasars, if I remember correctly) to come here and if we’re really lucky they’ll get the US and North Korea first. They should probably pop by Number 10 too while they’re at it.

The film overall is a touching story told with an adherence to fact that’s blended with natural storytelling ability so well it’s simple and beautiful while also just being entertaining. The soft touching moments are equally met by tense and exciting moments during problems with the mission.

The Farthest is well worth a watch and it’s a great new entry into the pantheon of Irish film but with so American a story. Fitting, given the inclusive and explorational sentiment of the mission.

The Farthest is released in selected cinemas nationwide on 28 July. 

Conor O’Doherty

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