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Thread Tension (2023)

-Written by Michelle Vorob


Thread Tension is a short film by Ruby Mastrodimos that does not disappoint. Coming in under 15 minutes, Thread Tension centers around Maggie (Abigail Richardson) and her fellow seamstresses in 1987 England, as they continue to work during a mystery outbreak at the factory [some think it's possession]. The environment is filled with tension, hence the title's double entendre. 

The women face two issues; one, not knowing who will fall ill next, which is ever more meaningful in this post-pandemic time and two, their boss (Adam Smethurst), who is a stick-in-the-mud, anti-feminist, mid-management bore. He's a lot of hyphenated words.

One day, while at her station, Maggie notices a coworker, Judy (Hannah Walter Russell) has become sick and rushes to help her to the bathroom, before anyone else notices. While in there, another coworker, Wanda (Lynne Payne) comes out of a stall and the two women try to help Judy, who is having some type of fit or seizure.

The boss, hearing the commotion, tries to come into the bathroom, to which Maggie and Wanda do their best to keep him out, to no avail. Upon seeing Judy on the floor (now done with her episode), he seems more interested in threatening all of their jobs than making sure everything is okay. He even tells Judy that while she should maybe go home sick, if she takes him up on that, she would lose her job. Maggie and Wanda try to help, but the boss doesn't like Maggie and he fires her.

Maggie, whose look reminded me of Sinead O'Connor during that time, is a good worker and a good person, but outspoken and not outwardly feminine. The fact that her very being is off-putting to this boss is purposeful.

Wanda, whose look is more average, is outwardly feminine and has somehow developed a sometimes playful rapport with the boss.

Judy, whose look is delicate and outwardly feminine, is “tiresome” to the boss, like one of the girls from your school days who was always crying about her boyfriend, or always going to the nurse's office with a headache.

Each of these women fit an archetype that a misogynist would place some type of worth on; “what value are you to me”, “how can I use you”, when in this case, all the women are already being used as cogs in a machine. There is a double burden, which is still largely at play today, in which women are often not deemed as valuable a worker as men, yet expected to perform well, all with a smile and no complaints.

Despite said work environment, Maggie needs her job, so she goes back the next morning and witnesses something that opens her eyes to what may actually be going on; not possession, but a strike. This is the official reveal of Writer-Director Mastrodimos, regarding Thread Tension. While I agree the last scene does make that clear [and it was great], I couldn't help but recall the scene in the bathroom with a legitimately afflicted Judy.

Now, perhaps Judy's bathroom fit was a metaphor. I may be overthinking at this point, but the fit could have been code for morning sickness or miscarriage, however, there's no reason that couldn't have been addressed, even subtly. Regardless, the rules of misogyny would still handle women with any voice, need, or want as a burden or historically, a curse, hence the creative defiance of these women, as a collective. 

Thread Tension is a film I actually would have loved to see as a feature length film, so every aspect could really be delved into. This is a great story and very well executed. 

Written and Directed by Ruby Mastrodimos.

Starring Abigail Richardson, Lynne Payne, Hannah Walter Russell, Adam Smethurst.



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