First Girl I Loved full movie review - A Fresh and Real Coming-Of-Age Film
I went into this film completely blind. I saw it was part of the NEXT stream and considering the great films that came from last year's (James White), I didn't hesitate.
Also, I love high school coming of age films, so I knew when I was at Sundance I was going to see at least one, because there is always one, and it's generally good. And lucky for me, FIRST GIRL I LOVED was fantastic.
We follow Anne, a high schooler who starts to form a relationship with a softball player, Sasha, at the dismay of Anne's best friend Clifton, who has had a crush on her since forever. The development of Anne's new feelings for this girl is one of the most real and least exploitative I've seen in film. There's no bullshit tropes that have become so derivative in 'lesbian' films, but even calling this a lesbian film is a disservice to what this film is about. Its a love story that doesn't try to push an agenda. Its sweet, heartbreaking and super cool all at once.
Dylan Gelula is fantastic as Anne. She shows awesome range, from the great highs she shares with Sasha to the haunting lows she endures with Clifton. Brianna Hildebrand was convincing as the popular, yet reserved Sasha. I'm glad this is the first thing I saw her in, before her appearance in Deadpool next month. It's a great film to start her breakout year. The chemistry the two girls share is so real. Their banter is effortless, developing their relationship at an organic pace. One thing that I love about their relationship is that its Anne who is trying to court Sasha. Anne is much more confident and cool than Sasha, and usually these narratives tell the story from the more self-conscious POV. FIRST GIRL I LOVED switched it up and it worked for the better, creating a unique and relatable romance.
The film features scenes that aren't entirely revealed until later in the story, creating a unique pace for the film. This allows mystery to form around the characters' motivations and reactions. When we are given the full scenes as the film plays out, its a satisfying surprise rather than a cheap trick. We see what the characters' want to remember about the events, but when they have to confront the reality of it, we see the true depths of what really entailed.
Louie's Pamela Aldon plays Anne's mother, and amazes which is no surprise to any fans of CK's show. And to my surprise, Tim Heidecker shows up as a counsellor in a role that is subtly hilarious and against type. Workaholics' Erik Griffin was equally hilarious.
I'm finishing this review two days after seeing the movie, and its still sinking in. I could keep talking about it, but all I need to say is that I loved it and I'm so eager to see it again. Out of the 11 films I saw at Sundance, this one is definitely among my favourites. Having ended the festival with this film, I could not be more satisfied.