A- A A+

A sensitive view of high school gay romance

1 Comment
Tim Kroenert |  28 June 2017

 

First Girl I Loved (M). Director: Kerem Sanga. Starring: Dylan Gelula, Brianna Hildebrand, Mateo Arias, Pamela Adlon. 114 minutes

Some films seem custom made for the high school English curriculum. First Girl I Loved should be essential viewing and a conversation starter for teenagers and their parents, for its sensitive and authentic exploration of the lived experiences of young people coming to terms with their sexuality in a high school context.

Early in the film, Anne (Gelula) confesses to her best friend Cliff (Arias) that she is in love with a softball player from their school. He laughs at her; she knows nothing about sport, boys play baseball, girls play softball. This turns out to be a traumatic and pivotal conversation, which the film returns to repeatedly, revealing a little more each time. Anne is well aware of the difference between softball and baseball.

The object of her affection is Sasha (Hildebrand), whom Anne has occasion to get to know when she interviews her for the school yearbook. Their friendship is immediate and sweetly flirtatious; the girls begin texting each other regularly, and a mutual attraction grows.

Anne has to navigate these experiences largely alone, having fallen out with Cliff, whose responses to her are confused by his own attraction to her and by his bruised ego. Anne's mother Sharon (Adlon) is affectionate but distracted by her work, and her teachers are painted as caring but distant from the experiences of their young charges.

Dylan Gelula in First Girl I Loved

This is new territory for Sasha too, for whom the progression of her relationship with Anne is marked by uncertainty. The film hints at both peer and familial pressures holding her back, though does so in an understated way that is typical of the film as a whole. This is a master class in showing rather than telling, and the strength of the writing and performances is such that we are able to infer the motivations and hidden thoughts of characters without them needing to be explicitly stated.

 

"Moments overspill their boundaries, to influence an individual's thinking, feeling and acting at a later time."

 

Writer-director Sanga delicately disjoins time, holding certain moments close to his chest and revealing them at the right time to maximise emotional impact. These small acts of concealing and revealing help build suspense, and emphasise the ways in which moments overspill their immediate boundaries, to influence an individual's thinking, feeling and acting at a later time.

Thus that early conversation with Cliff, and a certain long night spent between Anne and Sasha, become fulcra for certain events that test our sympathies for all involved. At the same time the film remains at all times steeped in empathy, particularly for both Anne and Sasha.

To reveal too much in this review would be a disservice to Sanga and his careful plotting. But this is a coming of age story, and hope and heartbreak are equally pertinent markers on Anne's journey of self-discovery. The film leaves open several questions as a basis for discussion and reflection about how we, as parents, teachers or young people, might compassionately respond in similar circumstances. 

 


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is editor of Eureka Street.

 



Comments

Comments should be short, respectful and on topic. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Submitted comments

Tim, big thanks to you & a Jesuit e-journal for reviewing this film and topic, which would not ordinarily be covered in the Catholic press. But then its a measure of just how extraordinary ES's range and inclusiveness of life's experiences is.

Michael Furtado 30 June 2017

Similar articles

Spider shiver

5 Comments
Anne Elvey | 19 June 2017

Autumn leaf in spider webto build the bless of a soul spun in curled leaf left since autumn dry on the stem (another is unstamped in the box beneath the latest literary magazine) my fingers tentatively test it for spinners and for silk that shivers with prey ...


Our addiction to connection is centuries old

4 Comments
Sarah Klenbort | 15 June 2017

Posting It: the Victorian Revolution in Letter WritingOn a recent tour of Vaucluse House in Sydney's east, I couldn't help but notice, in every bedroom, a writing desk. I imagined Sarah Wentworth scribbling away with inkpot and pen 180 years ago. I wonder if the Wentworths went straight to their writing desks first thing in the morning, the way some people check their phones? The desire to receive news from someone somewhere else is century's old. In 1850 Tasmania had 11 newspapers, for a population of 70,000.


The story of the dog who wouldn't be ours

11 Comments
Catherine Marshall | 15 June 2017

DogsIt was humiliating, being refused adoption at an animal shelter. But it was worse knowing, in the ensuing months, that there was a little dog out there, and lots more besides him, who was being withheld from a genuinely loving family simply because they had failed to meet unreasonable demands. We tried to find a suitable dog at other shelters, but the pickings were slim. And so we did the very thing the shelter that had refused our application railed against: we bought a puppy from a pet shop.


Who killed Whitney Houston?

1 Comment
Tim Kroenert | 14 June 2017

Running parallel to this is Houston's intimate, long-time friendship with Robyn Crawford. Broomfield stops short of characterising it as romantic; others do not, and space is given to rumination about the difficulties of being a black, gay woman. In any case, the friendship sparks tension with Brown, and disapproval from Cissy. Crawford's abrupt departure from the tour is another turning point. In Broomfield's thesis, Houston's drug habit is a reaction to these various threats to her authenticity.


Nearly knowing John Clarke

2 Comments
Brian Matthews | 13 June 2017

John Clarke and Brian DaweOne of the 30 comedians, satirists, cartoonists and writers they interviewed was John Clarke. 'I first met John Clarke five years ago,' Murray recalls in his 1992 introduction to the interview, 'even though we grew up in the same town in New Zealand and for a while went to the same school. My claim to fame is that I nearly knew John Clarke. Recently when we looked though his school photos we realised that we knew every kid in Palmerston North in 1960 except each other.'