In a not too distant reality, Mateo Torres is wrongly arrested on his way to work. Living in a world where AI has autonomy, there are no means for him to challenge the police’s warrant—or even find out what the alleged crime is. Director K.D. Dávila’s Please Hold dissects the cracks in the US judicial system, tackling the numerous cases of sudden injustice that have melded into everyday life.
From its opening moments there is an immediate social commentary, taking the form of robotic street art engulfing a group of onlookers. While arguably an obvious visual statement, it sets exactly the right tonal precedent. The portrayal of every inch of life as we know it—from home deliveries to law enforcement—in the form of drones only further highlights the amount of social, political and economic damage possible.
Mateo’s stint in prison defies a sense of time, yet feels dated in the social concept of futurism. Through the confines of a cell, Dávila plays into our worst fears on multiple levels, using Black Mirror style touchpoints to enrich a sense of dissociation. The sparse setting and removal of human connection shows a lack of collective willingness to listen, while voices needing to be heard are lost within its void.
Even when its quiet moments verge on the visually unnecessary, Dávila’s revealing of information packs an almighty punch. There’s a cost to every action, while moments of revelation snap attention back to the near-misses of what life could be like. The jury is out on whether automated justice would be a worthwhile replacement for its flawed reality, the price on a human head high regardless of its nature.
Please Hold’s true beauty lies in its details. There’s the subtle gentrification of prison labour, as Mateo is paid pittance to create handmade garments that are Instagram worthy. A mouldy banana placed within his belongings is the sole indicator of how many sleepless nights may have passed. Yet the biggest detail is never learning exactly why Matteo is arrested in the first place. Is it racial profiling? Or mistaken identity? Should we learn to actively question the social standings around us?
With her first feature Emergency due to premiere at Sundance 2022, K.D. Dávila’s directorial identity is an exciting tonic for a world on the verge of self-combustion—with Please Hold a near-perfect glimpse into its possibilities.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: K.D. Dávila, Levin Menekse
STARS: Erick Lopez