Young teenager Adrian is hanging out at her South Florida home with her younger sister Nickie when she spots a group of teenagers in the street, joking and sharing the easy camaraderie that friends do. Intrigued, she and her sister follow the group into a carpark, keeping her eye on them closely.
Eventually, Adrianne finds her way into the group, and she tries hard to fit in. But her desire to be included at almost any cost, as well as her growing intrigue with one particular member of the group, puts her and her young sibling into a dangerous situation with unnerving consequences.
Written and directed by Kathy E. Mitrani, this short's dramatic situation is classic territory, as a young teenager finds their place in a social group and attempts to fit in sometimes threaten to dissolve the boundaries of self and even safety. But Mitrani's short drama achieves a hypnotic atmosphere and tone, with an attention to sensory experience and character that makes for a particularly immersive, authentic film.
While the plot unfolds with a surehanded yet seemingly unhurried momentum, the beautifully pared-down storytelling is more concerned with Adrianne's subjectivity. It takes time and care to put us into the headspace of the young protagonist, first with an arresting immediacy in the visuals, which are captured on textured, softly saturated 16mm, and intuitive camerawork and cinematography that are equal parts lush and gritty in their naturalism.
The style also makes legible Adrian's classic desires of excitement, belonging and exploration, with an almost tactile stream of images, sound and dialogue. There is less a sense of scenes telling a story, and more a series of moments and details adding up. This minimal approach also informs young performer Sofia Abad's understated performance, which expresses as much with silences as it does with dialogue. She takes step after step to get closer to the group but discovers the price of entry may be perilously high.
Poetic, visceral and engaging throughout, "Buzzkill" possesses an intimacy that draws viewers into the quiet yet heightened world of its young protagonist. It unfolds first with a languidness that mirrors the heat and humidity of its South Florida setting. But like a heart racing with a teenager's first kiss or escapade, the pace quickens and stirs as Adrian creeps towards the inner circle -- only to find that it's less an embrace of belonging and more a gap torn open, leaving her with only herself.