Please Punish Me (2015, Chris Esper)

Please Punish Me starts awkwardly (some really bad make-up contrasting the short’s strong technical qualities), then gets sort of offensive for a bit. With the pot-smoking black guy, it sort of feels like a late seventies sitcom. But then it doesn’t seem to be self-aware; there’s this practically Wes Anderson “dungeon” exterior, complete with handwritten sign.

Because what the short ends up being about, this trite little character drama between the male lead (David Sackal) and the domme he hires to punish him for being an alpha male who really wishes he was a beta. Joanna Donofrio plays the domme. She’s got a daughter and no husband, she’s only working in the dungeon because it pays better than being a nurse. Is that supposed to be a joke about the healthcare industry or the domination industry? Director Esper doesn’t seem to know he should be asking a question at all. Screenwriter Rich Camp doesn’t know how to ask the question.

Excellent editing from Felipe Jorge, great looking production design from Stephanie Castanos. Esper does better composing shots without conversations. Punish Me often looks quite good (though cinematographer Mark Phillips shoots exteriors far better than he does interiors). And Sackal and Donofrio are likable. It really should’ve been a showcase for them, not on the bland, life-affirming nonsense it ends up circling. Camp tries way too hard to be subtle.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Chris Esper; screenplay by Rich Camp, based on a story by Tom Paolino; director of photography, Mark Phillips; edited by Felipe Jorge; music by Steven Lanning-Cafaro; production designer, Stephanie Castanos; produced by Creusa Michelazzo.

Starring David Sackal (Scottie Lee), Joanna Donofrio (Michelle), Bradley Rhodes (Steinberg), Lorrie Bacon (Do-Rey-Mi), Mark Carter (Crueger) and Talli Clemons (Tigs).


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