Whether it’s something we admit to or discuss or not, the idea of how one might kill themselves and the practical considerations that follow is something I’m sure we’ve contemplated. However morbid it may be to even suggest, pondering what you might jot down in a suicide note or even how many people would come to your funeral feels universal, but, in the case of Kimmy Gatewood and Alison Becker‘s dark comedy short Control, you may be surprised at the level of admin needed to truly execute such a plan.
An unsettling film that seems designed specifically to confuse your emotional state as you’ll laugh and cry in equal measure, Control is a 15-minute experience that is likely to stay with you after its blunt conclusion. Becker (who is probably best known as Pawnee reporter Shauna Malwae-Tweep in Parks and Recreation) is the film’s focus, simply credited as “Woman”, she’s an OCD sufferer who wakes up with the seeming determination that today is the day she’ll end her life. The dialogue-less narrative never gives us any specifics as to why she’s made such a decision, but the genius of the film is that the details we are made aware of fleshes this character out in a wholly-rounded manner, and the fact that she seems so normal is what truly makes the story all the more disturbing.
Her apartment is attractively furnished, which would suggest financial stability, she clearly loves animals (Becker’s own dog features as the woman’s pet), and, going off the countless post-it notes she places on the various items in her house, she has a wealth of friends. It’s the fact that on the outside she appears to be happy, and yet something is missing for her, and it’s that insight into another’s unknown psyche that is sure to resonate with audiences, and, potentially, trigger them too; it should be said that viewers may find Control distressing, so view with caution.
Some may brand this film tasteless or offensive, but I think in showcasing a certain mind frame and daring to bring humour to the subject of suicide and mental health, it proves a more relatable experience. I have had my own struggles with such, and the practicality of what happens to your belongings after you die can’t be dismissed, and Gatewood and Becker both addressing this with a dash of humour is a more organic practice than some may realise. Humour is so often a mechanism utilised with grief, and Control, whilst impossibly sorrowful, exercises this intelligence without abandoning its awareness.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Control is screening as part of this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, running physically between January 19th and 25th, 2024, and virtually on the Slamdance Channel between January 22nd and 28th. For more information head to the official Slamdance Film Festival page.