Control

By Tom Tennant | Drama
A husband wants to get rid of the nanny. But his wife doesn't want to for a reason.

Mike and Olivia are a couple with a young family living in London. But as their children are getting older, Mike thinks they should let go of their au pair, Sofia, who’s been with them for four years.

Olivia, however, is reluctant to let Sofia go, which causes disagreement with her husband. Olivia wants to convince Mike to keep Sofia on… but she has to do so without revealing her ulterior motives.

Writer-director Tom Tennant’s short drama takes a traditional potboiler of a situation — a family, a nanny, some tension — and applies a coolly cerebral, observational approach to it, creating a quietly incisive portrait of a troubled home whose roiling discontents bubble under the surface.

The aesthetic is very clean, almost minimalist, with nearly all elements of craft stripped down to its essentials. The muted palette and artfully composed images have an almost standoffish beauty to them, and the almost documentary-like camerawork captures small details, especially the fleeting reactions and unspoken feelings. But it also has a feeling of claustrophobia and even sterility, portraying an emotional world of pristine but empty surfaces.

The script doesn’t pad its story with a lot of dialogue or action, keeping action confined to the home and the forward momentum carried by revelations of the underlying dynamics in the home. This momentum is accomplished subtly, through the use of small flashes to the past and finely tuned observation of how this household do and do not communicate — all of which offer small but crucial puzzle pieces that fall into place.

Because of the pared-down writing, the performances do a lot of the heavy lifting to move the story forward. The small ensemble cast is strong, particularly with actors Sharon Young and Pia Laborde-Noguez, who play Olivia and Sofia, respectively. Both give performances that are subtle, restrained and precise, oscillating between moments of truth and concealment that form the core of the drama.

True to its vision, the drama and climax of “Control” don’t come with a lot of “sturm und drang.” Instead, like much of the rest of the film, it unfurls in a furtive way, as Olivia makes a crucial decision — one that is aimed to get her what she wants without giving her motives away. It’s quiet but chilling — but heightens questions of how power, influence and autonomy work in this family, and how far we are willing to go to get what we want.




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