Thaw ★★★★★ HollyShorts Film Festival 2023

Thaw ★★★★★ HollyShorts Film Festival 2023

A profoundly intimate piece of filmmaking from Alex Bush, Thaw mesmerises. Becoming a remarkable love story that delves into the self-discovery of one’s gender. What a debut.

Huck and Smith have always been unlikely friends, Huck being a restrained and gentle boy while Smith is known for being the rambunctious tomboy in their small American town. When they travel to Smith’s family farm to tend to the animals for winter, Huck and Smith discover their true nature as they slowly begin to switch genders.

While it would be relatively easy to call Alex Bush’s film Thaw one about gender roles, it is, at its core, a love story. These two people have been pushed into this environment together and have found a connection and confidence to be who they are, but that doesn’t happen if there is no attachment from one to the other. Smith and Huck need to have that chemistry or attraction to one another to get to where they go.

Their exploration of genders, while what visually looks as if it is the story, takes a back seat for a bit. We finally get to see the two young people comfortable in their own skins. Most likely, this is the reason why they have been placed in such an isolated environment together. They find who they really are here and, happily for them and the audience, discover they are not alone and can enact their wants and needs in a comfortable and open dynamic.

Both Caitlin Cobb-Vialet and Jack Peterson pull out colossal performances here as our two protagonists; with Cobb-Vialet, they have this stubborn, take-command presence about them as Smith. They must go and get things done to show they do not need anyone’s help. There is a determination there that almost gets wiped out when they see Huck wearing the dress and earrings. Suddenly the cogs in their heads are turning; not only could Huck understand them, but maybe, the attraction that is present could be reciprocated. From there onwards, you sense that the control they want to have in their life can be fully realised, and they relish it.

Both show us a great vulnerability in finding a soul to connect with and possibly, for the first time, take on the role of a partner that they always wanted. This vulnerability mixes gorgeously with the sexual tension present in that desert scene. What first was flirty and playful became one of the most sexually charged moments of the year. You are always transfixed by their interactions here in Thaw, to the point that you never want the story to end. This is a perfect glimpse into the beginning of Huck and Smith’s new life together, and we as an audience need to see where it goes thanks to these performances and the brilliant direction of Alex Bush.

After doing the usual research for a film after watching it, it was found that Thaw is a proof-of-concept short of becoming a feature, which is surprising as it works so perfectly as a short film, and the impact that it has in those almost 17 minutes is gripping. However, when you stew on it, the more you realise how much you would actively want to see an extended version of this story, how its premise and how these characters are played could work in a feature-length film. Whatever happens next with Thaw, it remains in this form an exciting debut from Alex Bush.


The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.

For more information go to

Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:


Isla Soledad

In Too Deep


7 Minutes

The After

Swipe NYC

Shadow Brother Sunday

Zita Sempri



Hey Alexa

American Sikh

Spring Roll Dream

Welcome to 8th Street



Random Check


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