Sundance 2021: Cusp

Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill debuted their brilliant documentary, Cusp, at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

In a Texas military town, three teenage girls go about their summer break as if no one’s watching. Drinks, drugs, guns, and toxic masculinity – a terrible combination mostly shrugged off by the girls who don’t know any better way to be. Autumn, Brittney, and Aaloni are so cavalier about their perceived helplessness that it’ll make you sick to your stomach. And yet these girls are representative of so many more that it’s both illuminating and deeply disturbing to hear their thoughts on freedom, consent, and ubiquitous sexual violence.

With a vérité approach, Bethencourt and Hill chronicle the lives of 15 year old girls with sensitivity and truth. Mimicking their lazy, unstructured lives, the camera is merely a witness to the intimate moments within their family homes and their social circles. In some ways Autumn, Brittney, and Aalani are dealing with more adult problems than I encountered in my own youth, yet they seem so much less mature, less equipped to survive these formative years on the cusp of adulthood.

Bethencourt and Hill manage to observe unobtrusively while eliciting organic, surprisingly nonchalant confessions from their subjects. It’s an eye-opening documentary that all parents should see, and take away at least one valuable lesson: to teach your daughters to say no, and your sons to hear and respect it.

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