We love those challenges where a director suddenly changes the rules of the game, revealing once again how deceptive appearances can be. From this point of view, ‘Compel‘ is a short film that captivated us by the way in which its narrative progression suddenly derails from the convention of a comedy to a psychological thriller that makes you, in the end, question everything you saw. Patrick Coleman Duncan is a director who knows how to convincingly manipulate the structure of the different forms of cinematic expressiveness, carefully constructing the element of surprise that shatters the spectators’ horizon of expectation. Precisely for this reason, it is quite difficult to summarize the action of the project, much less to find out what the line is between the concrete reality of the characters and their chimeras.


The topic of interpersonal relationships is undoubtedly the core of the short film, but what begins as a rather absurd comedy about a one-night stand turns into a kind of parable about the toxicity of the connections between human beings that are dominated and eventually destroyed by their own sexual instincts. Sexuality also becomes the great theme and trauma of the couple who is captive, without realizing it, in the spider’s web of a (real? / imaginary?) man who embodies a sort of supernatural force. There is a lot of Freudian philosophy in the substrates of this project, and psychoanalysis aficionados will enjoy this tripartite personification of the ego or superego that takes the form of some banal but extremely recognizable characters in the everyday typology of our society. Through this total tribute to Freudian principles, the project risks, at some point, falling into a perhaps too moralizing discourse, but the director assumes his choice without finally giving us a particular reading key. The short film ends with a question: was it all just a hallucination, an elaborate set design of a fetish or a police investigation?


Patrick Coleman Duncan avoids giving us an answer, and this very freedom of the viewer to have their own version of the story makes everything even more appealing. But just as appealing is the way in which the director constructs at a cinematic level the characters’ illusory search for an answer. Talent and professionalism are two essential terms that define the visual and sensory concreteness and coherence of the project, supported by three very talented actors who convince through their extremely “authentic” roles. There is no need for ‘Compel’ to compel us to say that this is a very interesting project; we are convinced of this with the same intensity with which we believe that we are in front of a director with extraordinary potential.