There are very few short films in which the “perfect” formula of a toxic relationship is presented as suggestively and effectively as in ‘C O E R C E‘. However, what Rory Wilson proposes with his project alters conventional rules, providing an answer (not necessarily without cynicism) to the countless scenarios in which, amidst the relentless battle between the sexes, the man assumes the role of the absolute aggressor. In essence, the short film delves into the tragedy of a young man who becomes the victim of an abusive partner wielding emotional blackmail and extreme physical violence as weapons. This domestic drama exudes a striking intensity, akin to that of a visceral thriller, causing emotional discomfort. Remarkably, the director retains the realism of a “conventional” story. To the contrary, to a varying but discernible degree, he offers a counter-narrative to scenarios condemning the most appalling manifestations of toxic masculinity.
However, this is not a short film that might be deemed “misogynistic,” as some could perceive. In fact, the director’s intention extends beyond raising awareness of a genuine social issue. It squarely challenges the labels that tend to automatically vilify or excessively victimize individuals based on their gender. From this perspective, Rory Wilson seems to present a significantly more dramatic and incisive perspective than films like Ruben Östlund’s ‘Force Majeure’, which deconstruct stereotypes linked to masculinity, such as being “heroic,” “dignified,” “fearless,” and “devoid of any form of physical or emotional weakness.”
Employing a specific cinematic aesthetic rooted in condensed temporality, the short film synthesizes Sam’s personal experience with Morgan, who proves to be a master of emotional manipulation. After involuntarily becoming a father, the young man feels entrapped in an increasingly stifling relationship, eventually succumbing to extreme physical abuse. Amidst the desire to be with his child, the fear of losing his physical and emotional integrity, the stubbornness of upholding the facade of a normal couple—or more precisely, society’s instilled inertia to conform to predetermined stereotypes—Sam risks teetering on the edge of an abyss with no escape.
Rory Wilson meticulously constructs this almost carceral experience with heartrending impact at a brisk, unpredictable pace, all while paying heed to those contemplative details whose poeticism functions as a unifying element. Drawing inspiration from directors like Xavier Dolan (as seen in ‘It’s Only the End of the World’), Wilson employs the technique of claustrophobic close-ups. Coupled with the cold chromaticism and uninterrupted instrumental music, these elements coalesce into a potent and haunting structure. ‘C O E R C E’ serves as irrefutable evidence of an extraordinary directorial talent.