A self-driving car ferries a sleeping young woman reclining in its backseat to an unknown destination. But when the woman doesn’t get out, the car drives back to its home garage.
When the woman wakes up, she’s being driven back to her home by the car’s owner, a middle-aged married man named Charlie. She convinces him to let her drive the car, leading to what seems to be a sexual encounter.
But somewhere in the middle of the tryst, the passenger alarm is activated, locking the car and calling the police. When the police arrive, they take the woman away, saying she has opted not to press charges. But one of the cops investigates the security camera footage, revealing just what happened between Charlie and the young woman, whose name is Kim.
Writer-director Daniel Outram’s intelligent, meticulously controlled psychological drama hinges on a moment of intimacy that goes awry, building up an atmosphere of suggestive mystery and prurience that soon twists into a highly charged examination of the ambiguities of desire, sex and consent.
The directing is superb, especially in its moody, evocative use of light and shadow to create a strangely prurient atmosphere. It’s able to generate visual dynamism within the tight confines of a small space, thanks to a sharp eye for intriguing visual composition that carves up the interior of the car in a way that is both sinister and suggestive. The car becomes a libidinal space, though, with its modern touches, it’s also alien-like and forbidding in its way.
The visual atmosphere aligns with the storytelling, which subtly builds up the growing interaction between Charlie and Kim in a way that feels both mundane and charged. Veteran British actor Rupert Graves anchors the film with a subtly shaded, nuanced performance, oscillating between a reserved wariness and restive curiosity, especially in reaction to actor Ashley Runeckles. The buildup between them is organic and believable, and when things begin to get steamy, viewers will think they know where the encounter is headed.
Then the narrative abruptly jumps ahead to a very different emotional atmosphere of fear, shame and embarrassment, with Charlie in the front and Kim in the backseat. The fracturing of what has been a seamless, immersive storytelling experience generates mystery — one that is seemingly revealed when the police arrive, handle the situation and then review the security camera footage captured in the car.
The mystery, however, only yield larger, weightier moral questions, and as the story weaves between the flatness of facts revealed by the footage and the more complicated emotional immediacy of the flashback, these questions only become heavier and more loaded — and the consequence of not answering them, or even asking them of ourselves, becomes ever more perilous.
“Security” aims to provoke on many levels, though with its precise sense of craft and its disciplined writing, its provocation is never played for shock. Instead, it’s able to delineate the murkiness of human sexual interaction, where pleasure is often entwined with being “lost in the moment,” while interrogating whether or not this means abrogating moral responsibility for one’s actions and attention to the other person. By revisiting the captured footage of an encounter gone wrong, “Security” revisits the scripts of sexuality we’ve used to — forcing us to consider revising them, and pondering perhaps just how difficult that may be.