Like Todd Solondz’s Happiness and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, this engrossing debut feature by director Lisanne Skyler uses a layered narrative to portray the gothic in contemporary American life, but it’s much more empathetic toward its vulnerable characters. The gawky, inquisitive Judith (Heather Matarazzo of Welcome to the Dollhouse), waiting in a depot for a bus that will take her brother to college, befriends the sly, elusive Jimmy (Michael Weston), another misfit teen. He tells her secrets (possibly fabricated) about his fellow passengers, and she reciprocates by recounting a painful confrontation with her self-absorbed parents. The script, written by Skyler and her sister Tristine and based on short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, has a feel for the conspiratorial intimacy of young people who’ve been hurt by the adults in their lives. Matarazzo and Weston are understated and affecting, and Jacob Reynolds is equally restrained as an oppressed stepson in one of Jimmy’s tales. 91 min. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, September 1, 6:00; Saturday, September 2, 4:00 and 8:00; Sunday, September 3, 5:00; and Thursday, September 7, 6:00; 312-443-3737.