“There is no normal in teenage years” utters a young girl as the sun goes down, her friends carrying cans of beer and chatting from the top of old, beaten trucks. It is a fitting observation to set the tone for Cusp, a documentary following three teenage friends – Autumn, Aaloni and Brittney – in a small Texan town as they spend their summer going from party to party, desperately trying to numb many aches. 

“I mean no means go, right?” says one of the many girls in the film to recount the time when they were raped by a boyfriend or a loved one. The story is told with the same casual tone used to order something at a drive-thru. All these girls share the brutality of common tales, sexual violence normalised as they drastically lower their standards to reflect the corrosion of their self-worth. No longer do they dream about prince charming, the perfect guy reduced to anyone who will display the most basic level of decency. 

In this community, there is a vicious cycle of trauma perpetrated by extreme sexism and predatory behaviour. Older boys put on an act of asking for the girls’ ages as if they cared, before rapidly tossing all the pretence out of the window; parents choose to suppress instead of nurture, sweeping their children’s unprocessed traumas under the rug as they confront demons of their own. 

Echoing Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap, Bethencourt and Hill beautifully capture the gruelling nature of adolescence, in particular the heart-wrenching experience of growing up as a woman in the United States. As Autumn, Aaloni and Brittney find solace in their friendship, it is hard not to feel beaten by the fact that girls are still the ones expected to build their own shelter, even if they have to do so with bruised, calloused hands. 



DIRECTORS: Isabel Bethencourt, Parker Hill

SYNOPSIS: In a Texas military town, three teenage girls confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer.