Abbey tags along with her brother Jack and his best friend Sam at a beautiful spot in the California mountains. Called Furlong, it’s where teens go to jump off cliffs into a pool of water below.
As they bike to the spot together, Abbey has a fascination with her brother’s best friend, who also seems to see her in a new light. But when a flirtatious gambit goes wrong, an initially innocent outing takes a darker, murkier turn.
Writer-director Adam Meeks, along with co-writer Sophie Brooks, has crafted a short drama whose idyllic surfaces and observant sense of naturalism belie a dramatic shift in one teen’s experience of self and her place in the world.
Visually the film is both peaceable and lush, mostly taking place in a setting rich with beautiful greenery, mountains and nature, all of which are captured in crystalline cinematography. As the group of teens escapes into this mountain paradise, it gives the story the poetic sense of a sealed-off corner of the world, where anything can happen and any rules can be made up as they go along.
It also allows for the storytelling to unfold with a sense of patience and subtlety, driven as it is by the undercurrents of desire, curiosity and fascination between two people who are starting to see one another in a new light. The film’s dialogue is almost minimal, focused as it is on the unspoken expressions and body language between Abbey and Sam.
The excellent writing and acting show a precise care paid to the unspoken flickers of feelings shaping and driving behavior, particularly in teenagers who are grappling with strong unruly desires –without the seasoned judgment of grown-up experience. When Sam flirtatiously tries to get Abbey to jump off the cliff — with disastrous results — it forces her to deal with her worst fears in a high-pressure way no one anticipated on a beautiful summer day.
Many films about teenagers focus on a set of experiences marking adulthood — first love, losing virginity, acts of rebellion — and “Furlong” initially seems to follow this tradition at the beginning. But it sidesteps its way to a more suspenseful, interesting way of exploring the passage to maturity, coming through with an examination of what happens when we confront the edges of mortality and fear, and come through to the other side.