Stephen Porzio reflects on the Irish short film Gridlock, directed by Ian Hunt Duffy, who won a Young Directors Award in Cannes last week.

Atmospheric and tense, Ian Hunt Duffy’s short film Gridlock finds terror in the every day. Moe Dunford (so terrific in Handsome Devil) plays Eoin, a father – travelling with his daughter – caught in a traffic jam. Leaving the car briefly to discover the cause of the gridlock, he returns to find his child missing. Suddenly, everyone becomes a suspect.

Like any good short, Gridlock is brief but leaves an impact. Darach McGarrigle’s script does an effective job at highlighting the many different ways people react in traumatic situations. Gridlock shows how, in the event of a potential child disappearance, mob mentality can take over. As with the character played excellently by Love/Hate’s Peter Coonan, certain people’s eagerness to find the child mutates into hostility – often aimed at the wrong person. They can accuse others without any serious evidence to back up their claims. Also, personal views or prejudices may colour how they act. They jump to conclusions, quickly regarding alleged “culprits”.

McGarrigle’s script also feels natural and organic. Characters don’t immediately fly off the handle. Instead, events gradually intensify as people begin to grow more agitated and frightened, eventually tipping over into violence.

Duffy’s direction is solid too. Not only does the short look and sound great, it wisely isn’t flashy – a good choice as it makes the events feel realistic to the audience. Any overt stylistics could have perhaps made the viewer more aware they were watching a film.

Without spoiling, there is a stinger in the tail – a final moment which will leave the film lingering long in the memory. Ultimately, Gridlock is a compact short – one which leaves a distinct mark in little time. In the way Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley moved from short filmmaking with Foxes to feature length with Without Name, I hope Duffy and McGarrigle make a similar transition.




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