SHORT FILM REVIEW: GRIDLOCK

Writer/Director: Ian Hunt Duff  | Producer: Simon Doyle | Cast: Moe Dunford, Peter Coonan, Steve Wall and Amy de Bhrun. 

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During a traffic jam on a narrow country road. When Eoin’s young daughter Emma goes missing from their car, he forms a desperate search party to find her. But as panic takes hold among the other drivers, the search for a missing girl quickly descends into a frenzied witch-hunt, where no one is above suspicion.

Gridlock is a thrilling ride.  

Indeed,  despite its title and baseline premise, Gridlock moves at a pace that’s consistently engaging and packed with plenty of questions of who, how and why. It has all the machinations of CLUE? without any of the superfluous character breakdown, making which is both intriguing and chilling.  

Little Emma, cute and slightly precocious, wonders out aloud when she’ll see her mother again. Her gruff and irritated father, Eoin – has no time to engage in conversation and tells her to play with her creepy broken doll. He’s just been on the phone to someone, looking for a place to drop his daughter. Why that is, is never disclosed nor is it important, we just know that he’s in a hurry to get there.

Through snippets of conversation with someone on the other end of the phone, we paint the picture of a protective father in Eoin, trapped in a battle of sorts with an estranged ex,  Emma’s mother.  When he returns to his car after investigating the source of the pile up, the little girl is not there. The couple in the car behind, they’re the image of propriety didn’t see anyone come or go; then there’s the invasive loud-mouthed lad who is quick to point fingers and lead much of Eoin’s (and ours to an extent) suspicions until he is accused of subverting attention from himself. There’s the creepy looking loner who refuses to unlock his door to a bunch of snarling strangers – it must be him? Even the man with a doll in the back of his car is called out – surely he would have led a little girl past all the other cars, in broad daylight, to his own without being seen? Look he’s put a doll on the passenger seat in full view! Who cares if it’s the same doll as Emma’s or not, pedantics !  At this point we don’t even care!Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 16.31.51

Like protagonist Eoin, we know nothing of the people around him it’s a lonely and vulnerable position to be in. It’s fair to assume everyone is a suspect without really having to delve into individual backstories or the exploration of motive. It’s a forgiving leniency  often afforded to short film, but Gridlock genuinely doesn’t need to give away any more than it does (which is very little).  Without knowing who the characters are, what they choose to project in the first ten seconds of being drawn into Eoin’s orbit, is up for good old fashioned subjective assessment.  What adds dimension to this film’s mysterious premise is the fact that it all takes place in broad daylight; someone must have seen something, so who’s lying? Nevermind that children do tend to go wandering off on their own. It’s every parent’s living nightmare and global quandaries.

Through a panicked and aggressively desperate Eoin, we jump between suspects, we withdraw, get confused and increasingly unsure of who to trust.  It’s a mirror held up to an increasingly assumed ‘liberal’ society who might, like myself, consider themselves reasonable, pathological warriors of the assertions: ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ – and yet here I was, pointing fingers within seconds of a camera angle held too long, or the split second blink of a potential suspect. “Guilty!” I’d shout at the screen, before my theory was just as quickly debunked and simply explained away because, frankly, I was the illogical and presumptuous one. 

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Right up until the third act after a series of curve balls (that never feel annoying just perpetually diverting) the film’s conclusion is both delightfully shocking and momentarily disabling.