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Film Review: Gridlock

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In his second short film, director Ian Hunt Duffy brings us Irish thriller Gridlock. Whilst an intense and surprising story, the film does suffer from feeling the need to over-explain itself at times.

Credit: Irish Film Festival, Boston

Set in Kildare, Ireland, the film follows father Eoin (Moe Dunford) as he and his daughter Emma (Robyn Dempsey) become caught in a traffic jam following an accident on a small country road. Eager to get on his way, Eoin investigates what has happened, but on his return, finds that Emma has disappeared. After frantically putting together a search party made up of others held on the road, Eoin begins to realise that everyone is a potential suspect.

For its twenty-minute duration, the film does a great job of keeping up the intensity. From opening to closing there is a sense of discomfort and panic, which is captured excellently by Duffy’s direction. Every shot is relevant from start to finish and this is pivotal when making a film of this length, as everything has to count. Thankfully in the case of Gridlock, it does.

The film also tells an intriguing social narrative based on people being suspicious of each other in testing situations. It's very clear that immediately after Emma’s disappearance, everyone begins to suspect one another, feeling that someone has to be responsible. This leads to finger pointing and intense arguments that only escalate as the film goes on. For this, credit goes to writer Darach McGarrigle he puts the audience in the same place as those involved in the search, in a sense that they hastily draw to conclusions and are quick to point the finger. The look at this social narrative is made even more interesting when considering the film’s ending.

However, as interesting as the story is, not all of the writing is great. There are a few times where what is happening is spelt out for the audience unnecessarily and a few characters feel like they’re there solely to explain what’s going on. For example, the character of Rory, played by Peter Coonan, often makes it clear through dialogue that a certain person is suspicious, despite the camerawork and writing already making this clear. There are also some nonsensical plot moments in which characters will act suspiciously despite having nothing to hide. This is of course done to build tension leading up to the reveal of their innocence, but then makes their actions beforehand seem out of place.

Other times this in your face storytelling is seen through the performances. Characters will overplay their anger and frustration by constantly lashing out or shouting over seemingly nothing. Although the film is supposed to show people’s irrationality at times of panic, it undermines the audience by making this overly clear.

That being said though, the film is very well acted. Everyone involved puts in solid performances, with Moe Dunford as Eoin and Steve Wall as Liam being the stand out acts. Despite there being over exaggeration at times, this seems to be more of a script issue rather than something wrong with the actors themselves, as they clearly do their best with what they've been given.

The film also looks great, with the small setting of the back-country road being utilised fully. The smaller environment helps add to the mystery of Emma’s disappearance as only a few scenarios are possible. The soundtrack does a lot to help build this tension as well, with Gareth Averill’s loud dramatic music being an imposing feature throughout. 

Overall Gridlock is a well-acted and directed thriller. The short film is worth the watch, if not just for it’s interesting social commentary.

Gridlock will be screening at the Japan Short Shorts Film Festival on June 7th.
Gridlock- Trailer from Fail Safe Films on Vimeo.

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