Directed by Ben S. Hyland
Starring Valmike Rampersade, Gina Bramhill, Antonia Bernath, & Rebecca Grant
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Domestic abuse but probably not how you know it, Ben S. Hyland's psychological thriller Padlock is a short film to be reckoned with when it comes to delivering hard hitting themes alongside gripping tension, violence, and mystery.
Set inside a nondescript suburban house, we are treated to an intimate glimpse into the volatile relationship between Matt (Valmike Rampersade) and Julie (Gina Bramhill and Antonia Bernath). From the outset, an air of tension is palpable, as we witness the controlling behaviour of the latter, which becomes increasingly disturbing and abusive. Having already gender swapped the stereotypical "abuser", the story, penned by Hyland and co-writer Jonathan Young, goes one further to subvert genre conventions by introducing a fantasy element which, albeit heavily laden with metaphor, is starkly arresting and poignant.
Revelling in the dark secrets which surround monogamous relationships, Padlock is a film that captures something quintessential and compelling about the human experience. It posits the question: what do you do when the person you are most intimate with is the person causing you the most harm? The movie also comments, with intelligent simplicity, on the guises we wear for those around us and society in order to maintain the facade of safe normality. Herein the titular Padlock becomes a heavy metaphor for personal secrecy.
The performances are a mixed bunch. Rampersade is an effective enough lead, coping more with the physicality of his character than the dialogue. He is (quite literally) pushed off the screen by Bernath, who delivers a powerhouse performance as the on-screen menace. Her nuanced and controlled performance dictates so much of the pacing and threat of each scene she is in that audiences will quite simply beg her to come back into the frame.
There were some tender moments in the filmmaking which are worth highlighting. Such as the use of lighting as Matt lays awake in bed, the light strewn across only part of his body - perhaps reflecting the secrets he hides from the world. The sound design is also used with subtle grace to pick out the rising tension without becoming too cumbersome for a short drama.
Aside from one goof when Matt's sister Anna (Rebecca Grant) comes to visit - after washing her hands they are bone dry somehow? - which jolted me momentarily out of the movie, Padlock is a gripping, intelligent and thought-provoking piece that leaves a visceral aftertaste.