We’ve all toyed with the idea of ending our lives. This is usually followed by practical considerations like ‘how would I do it’ and ‘what would I write in my suicide note’, as well as more self indulgent thoughts like ‘how many people would turn up at my funeral’ and ‘what would they say in the eulogy?’ For the nameless protagonist in today’s feature, however, the decision to kill herself involves a hell of a lot more admin and general preparation than initially anticipated. Kimmy Gatewood takes us on an unsettling ride in consummately amusing and utterly harrowing tragicomedy Control. Whilst you never really know whether to laugh or cry, to applaud or be appalled, one thing is for sure – this is a film which can’t be ignored. It will get under your skin and, like a blood stain on the carpet, it will never really go away.
An OCD sufferer wakes up with a determined expression on her face. She has decided to kill herself today. But that was the easy part… Unfolding entirely inside the confines of her apartment, Control is a dialogue-free story about a woman on a mission to put her life in order before she ends it. I must warn you that due to the nature of the themes explored in the film, some viewers may find it extremely distressing.
Control has quite an unsettling back story too. The idea was first conceived by Alison Becker who shared it with Gatewood, and then proceeded to not only write it but be the star of the short too. The team shot the film in Alison’s apartament, with her own furniture, belongings and even her dog, making Control an unusually personal project, one which proved painful for her friends and family to watch.
To create a well fleshed-out character in a short film, one who evokes empathy and firmly grips the audience’s attention from start to finish, is rare. To do it without the use of dialogue (apart from a hushed ‘damn it’) or any interaction with other (human) characters is nothing short of ingenious.
We learn so much about the anonymous protagonist in Control, from so little. She is obviously very neat, loves dogs and judging from her apartment, it’s safe to assume that she is financially comfortable. But we also find out that she is an art lover, she is environmentally conscientious, she looks after her health, she has a sense of humour, she reads, she has friends. In short, she is not so different from you or me. And this is what really hits home, like a punch in the gut – the knowledge that even if you achieve everything you ever strived for, you could still feel tragically unhappy.
“We wanted to make a funny but sad film about mental illness. We wanted people to laugh and to cry and to then be unsure about how they’re “supposed” to feel. Is it ok to laugh when dealing with such a serious subject? We want this film to spark a conversation about mental illness.” – Alison shared.
This is ultimately what makes Control such an unforgettable watch. Arguably, it is also what will make some people write it off as distasteful or offensive. For me, the film is brave enough to bring humour and levity to the subject of suicide and mental health, without ever ignoring the accompanying and unavoidable sorrow and devastation. And as someone who has lived through the suicide of a family member, I know all too well that tragedy is never too far from comedy and that sometimes humour is the only coping mechanism which helps when dealing with devastating, unimaginable grief.