[FilmQuest 2023 Short Film Review] VOYAGER

In Pablo Pagán’s latest short film, VOYAGER (2023), we are taken through a drug-riddled journey of mystery, self-exploration, and – sadly – revenge. Featuring a protagonist that is more often invisible than not, the exploration outside of Camila’s (Ana Barja) sense of self facilitated by the drug provides a fascinating mystery as well as displays its horrific implications. Neither here nor there, caught in a state between life and death, all viewers can do is watch and let this mystery reach its natural conclusion.

The short follows Camila at the end of their journey. One night while working as a party truck driver, they discover some pills left behind by patrons. Upon taking one of the pills after taking care of their ward, they find themselves outside of their body. While the world is dark and distorted, people can see Camila in reflections, which causes disturbances. As outsiders start to piece together the trail connected to Camila’s mysterious circumstances, Camila’s curiosity runs its course in a sad twist of fate.

Pagán’s story from beginning to end is fully realized. The mystery presented at the beginning of VOYAGER (2023) tells us that something else is lurking beneath the surface. Peeling back the layers of this mystery is both satisfying and tantalizing. We’re easily left on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next. With its short run time of just under 20 minutes, VOYAGER (2023) feels complete. Outside of the writing and overall execution, Barja’s performance as Camila is what sells the underlying heartbreak of the film.

Camila is a person of minimal words. While their patrons party it up, it’s like they see right through Camila. There’s no difference in treatment regardless of whether or not Camila takes these drugs. Wholly expendable, Camila’s only purpose for these paying customers is to drive them around. Unfortunately, the one time they do notice the driver is ultimately what seals Camila’s fate in the end. Conveying a litany of emotions, Barja shows us the inner world of this lonely adult. When the realization of the drug’s consequences reveals themselves, it is only then that loneliness turns to rage, and this slow, quiet delivery from Barja is terrifying.

If there is anything to complain about regarding VOYAGER (2023), it would be that at times, the scenes read too darkly lit. A little more lighting wouldn’t have hurt in a couple of scenes. That said, there are moments of startling beauty, particularly towards the end of the short featuring fire.

As my first introduction to Pagán’s work, VOYAGER (2023) highlights the clear, distinctive voice the writer-director has to offer to the genre-scape. With a fully realized story captivating attention from beginning to end, it’s clear that there is a bright future ahead for this filmmaker.

VOYAGER played as part of the 2023 FilmQuest Festival ahead of THE WAIT.

Sarah Musnicky
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