While there have been recent examples of strong female characters on screen, from superheroes to jewellery thieves to time-travelling doctors, under-representation and stereotyping of women in cinema is regrettably still an issue that needs addressing. But short film INCALL from directors Rachael Murphy and Bevan Hamilton looks to prove a point in this regard, and offers an exciting confrontational thriller dominated by a female cast in a time where gender equality, female representation and the overall position of women in the cinema could not be more of a hot topic.
Chloe (Crash Barrera), adorned in an alluring red dress, arrives at the home of Aneleyse (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson), a woman full of confidence and success judging by her luxurious penthouse suite and fashionable attire. While at first their relationship is unclear, slowly we come to understand that Aneleyse is using the services of call girl Chloe to play out her sexual fantasies of dominance and submission, swapping her power suit and heels for handcuffs and other instruments. From here, the power games begin and while the lines blur with regards what is real and what is part of their game, everything soon takes a turn after the arrival of alpha-female Sam (Nancy LaScala), who turns this bout of sexual fantasy into something much more serious.
The film explores themes of “sexual power-play, greed and deception from a female perspective”, and does not hold back in this regard. As soon as Chloe steps through the penthouse door to meet Aneleyse, the balance of power is constantly shifting, and the film is laden with moments where these women use manipulation, seduction and physical violence to exert their dominance over one another. Roles such as these have typically been portrayed by men on screen but having an all-female cast here with minimal male presence gives this short film a very different tone, and more importantly, the correct one. Having a more prominent male character in any capacity, either as a victim or antagonist, would have undermined the film’s message but by having a trio of strong and convincing female leads, this short film manages to fully emphasise its point.
All three women deliver great performances, but especially Johnson and Barrera, who work both sides of the scale as they shift from being controlled to being in control. INCALL has a fairly simple plot, but to be fair that is all that it really needs, and it has the feel of a gripping drama with clear potential to be stretched out further into a feature long narrative. There is the sense that we have been brought into the film halfway through and end up leaving right before the end which feels a bit frustrating and leaves you wanting more details, but ultimately also adds to the intrigue.
Directors Hamilton and Murphy should be commended for showcasing female characters who are not only compelling and confident, but also represent today’s women. While some of the details in this short film are left a little vague and it maybe ends a little too quickly, it doesn’t stop the film from delivering in what it sets out to do.