Hulu, in collaboration with NEON, made headlines earlier this year when it paid a record $22 million to acquire Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti’s fantastic romantic comedy Palm Springs out of the Sundance Film Festival. It’s safe to say that Thirsty, the streamer’s 12-minute short film, did not cost quite as much.
Thirsty was developed for a segment on Cake, a short-form anthology series on the FX network, which now works in tandem with Hulu as arguably its biggest small-screen brand. The Quibi-esque idea revolved around featuring bite-sized short stories that were an average of 15-minutes long. Hulu has classified the short film, made by rising filmmaker Nicole Delaney, as a one-episode comedy series. Given its delightfully odd premise, we can see why it’s generating some conversation across social media.
Thirsty is the story of a mosquito, voiced by the incomparable Maya Rudolph, who falls in love with a man (Insecure‘s Jay Ellis) after she tastes his blood and pushes the bounds of infatuation and obsession. He’s just gone through a painful breakup and she’s searching for a missing element in her life. Through her eyes we explore the ups and downs of sex, intimacy, love, and a bug’s unflinching desire to feel human. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. And yet, despite initial resistance to such a silly idea, Thirsty is a surprisingly touching story about the desire for connection.
In efficient and economical storytelling, the short film deploys absurdist humor to delve into relatable emotional depths and romance, longing, and desire. Cinematographer John Wakayama cleverly portrays the mosquito’s point of view without disorienting the viewer with repeated circling or high-pitched buzzing that trips over into distracting territory. Delaney and co-writer Sonya Goddy are really delivering a human story through the lens of a hilarious and unexpected POV. It works and reflects a deeper sentiment about representation.
“My objective wasn’t necessarily the female gaze, but it’s such a fortuitous outcome of how it’s shot. I think it gives a very unique perspective that we don’t get to see it a lot of time,” Delaney told IndieWire earlier this year. “The reaction I got from a few black men was, ‘How cool is it that a black man could be looked at through this lens? As a desired, complex, three-dimensional character.’ [One guy] was like, ‘I thought it was pretty cool that a man could be both strong and sensitive, sexualized and black all at the same time, a man that’s also pursuing sexual health care, a man that’s also really brazen with his feelings.’ It was an empowering point of view.”
The short film is funny and creative on its own, but also a risk given the central character. When are you going to see an insect star as the protagonist of a live-action story ever again? For that alone, it’s worth watching, especially as a quick 12-minute watch. If you take the plunge, you’ll soon discover an affecting and shockingly familiar tale of yearning and the fact that it’s a bug’s story will quickly become just an entertaining footnote.