Jacob Isaiah Kelly’s Gutted examines what it means to be a good man, a good boyfriend and an ideal supporter when put to the test by a time of crisis. At the ironical centre of the story is Jack, a man trying to be his best for his girlfriend who was assaulted mere days ago.
The irony of it is made much of: though it is Willow (Hannah Kwon) who is traumatised, the focus is Jack (Jacob Ward) and how he is dealing with the situation and his resulting crisis of manhood. The first line of dialogue is Jack’s: I’ll handle it. The break-in and assault fresh in her memory, Willow is undergoing a panic attack amidst a party at her place. Jack assures her he will take care of the people. But when he returns to the living room, everyone has already been sent home by Deja (Briza Covarrubias), Willow’s best friend and former roommate, and as becomes apparent, someone Jack competes with to have Willow’s best interests at heart. Willow is already secondary, something that Deja points out in Jack’s fervent desire to have an opportunity to exact vengeance on the attacker.
These first three minutes of the film display the efficiency of the writing. Characters, their relationships, and the premise are established with due complexity. The next nine odd minutes watch as Jack’s insecurities about his own function and role unravel him. He has to be the protector, the good and capable man, and the only person Willow turns to. When these expectations come under doubt, it is Jack’s sense of self that comes under doubt. Willow becomes merely the stage as well as the prop with which Jack has to prove his worth. Taken to the extreme, he becomes a hazard to Willow and then to Deja, further demonstrating his need to be seen as the only one capable and useful.
Willow’s trauma and resulting needs are notably focused on through the cinematography and editing. While Jack is on a tirade about the attacker, the camera silently pieces together Willow’s life as a person independent from Jack. Her paintings are a principal element of this. Whether they are on the walls is a marker of how she is coping. These and other pieces of art are framed as a natural part of her personal space: the apartment, which was first broken into, and then occupied by Jack’s feelings. When she asserts her need and appreciation for her space, it is the film’s act of reminding Willow’s position as the main element of her own story, as it should have been but is not.
Gutted appears to use even its title as an ironic reference to Jack’s prioritisation of his feelings. He is gutted, he is concerned, he is angry. Everyone else, including Willow, are better off listening to him. However, the film does not mock him. Misplaced though Jack’s feelings and actions are, they are investigated with seriousness. What ails him, it turns out, is a notion of manhood.
Watch Gutted Short Film
Gutted: A Performance of Masculinity and the Price of it
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