When a little girl goes missing from one of the cars in a traffic jam on a country road, her father forms a desperate search party to find her, and soon everyone is a suspect.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
Directed by Ian Hunt-Duffy
“Taking a whodunnit narrative and transferring it to the Irish countryside, Ian Hunt-Duffy’s Gridlock is a gripping thriller set within the confines of a small rural road. Exploring how fast boundaries can be crossed and people can turn on each other when tensions quickly rise, this 20-minute short illustrates the lengths society will go to when they feel like justice is on their side.
As the film begins, we find ourselves in the car of young father Eoin. Accompanied by his daughter Emma, the pair are on their way to an undisclosed location, before a traffic jam stops their journey short. While Emma continues to play with her doll in the backseat of the car, Eoin gets out to see what caused the commotion. An accident involving a horse carriage has brought the entire road to a halt, which we get to see in unflinching close-up as Eoin stares into the eye of the dead horse lying on the street.
The suspense only builds from there: When the father arrives back at the car, his daughter is nowhere to be found. As he begins his desperate search to find her, confronting the people in the vehicles around him, each accusation escalates the tension as more and more people get involved. An eager young man not only joins in the search, but brings a certain cynicism to the film as he tells the other characters how common kid-snatchings actually are, with an undertone of perverse joy in sharing this knowledge.
As the mob mentality of the accusers and bystanders sets in everyone becomes a suspect, each twist and turn drawing the viewers deeper into the narrative, leaving them on the edge of their seat right up to the film’s finale. With each red herring and well-timed revelation, director Hunt-Duffy and writer Darach McGarrigle sustain the audience’s attention throughout–although one has to be open to a degree of suspension of disbelief, starting with the unlikely scenario of a traffic jam on such a secluded road, and go with Hunt-Duffy and McGarrigle’s tightly wound narrative.
As Hunt-Duffy says about the inspiration for this film: “Gridlock was my attempt at creating an American style thriller but with a distinctly Irish feel. […] I love high-concept thrillers that are set in a single location and I always wanted to do my own version. One day I was stuck in traffic and I thought it would be interesting to set a thriller entirely during a traffic jam and see what kind of suspense you could create in that restricted environment.“
The film walks a fine line between the elements of a gritty thriller and the tonal undertones of something akin to dark humor, adding a necessary light touch to the unsettling developments. With each reveal, the power dynamics shift within the group and in the viewer’s perception. Gridlock raises the stakes through shining a light on the paranoia created by heightened circumstances. Hunt Duffy explains that, “the film also comments on how easily a victim can turn into a perpetrator, that sometimes people don’t always learn the right lessons from their own mistreatment“.
Moe Dunford anchors the story with an intense lead performance as exasperated father Eoin, but the entire cast is equally convincing, with everyone seemingly having something to hide. From the self-described “respectable couple” in the car behind Eoin, who should have easily seen something if Emma was taken from the backseat, to the wise-cracking right-hand man (Peter Coonan) adding some comic relief to proceedings and the dodgy main suspect (Steve Wall) who is strangely empathetic.” – S/W Curator Georg Csarmann
Amy De Bhrún
Director of Photography: Narayan Van Maele
Production Designer: Mark Kilbride
Costume: Gwen Jeffares Hourie
Editor: Eoin McGuirk
Composer: Gareth Averill
Sound Designer: Nikki Moss
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.