Mwah

By Nina Buxton | Drama
A teenage girl on her way home encounters a man who wants her attention.

A young teenage girl is leaving her friend’s house at night. As she gets on her bike to ride the short distance home, a car pulls up next to her, and one of the people inside makes a kissing noise at her when they’re side-by-side at a stoplight.

Trying to move along and mind her own business, the young girl takes off on her bike. But for a few minutes, the car trails after her, and the girl begins to worry about what will happen next.

Writer-director Nina Buxton’s economical but powerful drama takes a small but incendiary moment in one young woman’s daily life and amplifies it with superlative craft and intelligence, illustrating how one seemingly small cat-call can assume ominous proportions.

The confident, sure-handed craftsmanship leans on the power of camera, editing and performance to create its thriller-like intensity. The dialogue is very sparse, but the storytelling breaks down each beat of the young girl’s encounter and flight with deft precision.

With the lack of dialogue and musical score for much of the film’s action, the sound design takes on added import, as do the images, which show just how alone the girl is and her growing fear as the car trails after her on the road. These pared-down elements draw the focus to the girl’s subjective experience, each sound and movement causing her to question her safety and realize her vulnerability.

Young performer Bethany Whitmore gives a powerful, subtle performance that proves pivotal to the film’s evocation of suspense and fear. The acting is really a series of realizations, as the girl moves from a position of youthful, almost innocent freedom to a feeling of being potentially hunted as prey. Each shift in the girl’s consciousness forms the crux of the drama, and the care and precision that the camera and editing take to capture these beats in Whitmore’s performance is key to its resonance. As the girl embarks on her escape, she may elude physical danger for now — but her anxiety and sense of endangerment will likely linger.

The most powerful aspect of “Mwah” is in how it applies the craft and sensibility of the thriller genre to an ordinary, everyday moment, bringing us inside the small but intense fear evoked when our sense of safety is punctured in a seemingly small, supposedly harmless way.

“Micro-aggression” is a very current term in the public discourse, yet the gift of “Mwah” is to make these abstract concepts emotional, concrete and, sadly, highly relatable. Leveraging the power of cinematic storytelling to elongate and expand tiny moments into full journeys of emotion and intimacy, a seemingly small gesture can take on loaded significance, depending on your position in society and life, and a bike ride at night can assume the terror and fear of a chase in a horror film. It’s only for a few minutes for the young girl — but those minutes can seem like hours when it’s possible that your safety, or very life, hangs in the balance.




You Might Also Like:

Sylvia

By Richard Prendergast | Drama
A single mother takes her family on a road trip. But it's to an unwanted destination.

Second Best

By Alyssa McClelland | Comedy
Twin sisters turn into rivals when one's gymnastics career steals the spotlight.

No More Wings

By Abraham Adeyemi | Drama
2 friends meet at their favorite fried chicken shop. But their lives have diverged.

Avarya

By Gokalp Gonen | Animation
A man is trapped on a spaceship after his robot overseer finds every planet uninhabitable.

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Ernie

By Hadley Hillel | Drama
A man's suicide attempt rips a hole in the ceiling. Then he befriends the boy upstairs.

Dig Your Own Grave

By Kirk Larsen | Comedy
A man is forced to dig his own grave in the desert. But the ground is hard.

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

More Than God

By Kev Cahill | Comedy
A devoted husband suspects his wife is cheating on him. Then he hides under the bed.

Welcome to Iron Knob

By Dave Wade | Comedy
A young boy accidentally shoots a stranger and the town tries to cover it up.

CODA

By Erika Davis-Marsh | Romance
A young dancer falls for a deaf guy, then tries to find her place in the world.

Toni With an I

By Marco Alessi | Drama
An awkward girl doesn't fit in at school. Then the Internet comes to save her.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.

Into the Silent Sea

By Andrej Landin | Sci-Fi
A Soviet cosmonaut who is stranded in space discovers a voice in the distance.

Infinite ft. George MacKay

By Connor O’Hara | Drama
A terminally-ill man has a plan to 'live on' and gets his friends to help.



Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening.
That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady
stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.