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:: First Girl I Loved

In many ways, First Girl I Loved is your typical high school love story. There’s the electrifying first encounter, the nervous getting-to-know-each-other phase, the pleasurable high of truly being in love, and the obstacles that must be overcome. What distinguishes the film is how it presents all of this, allowing viewers to experience the peaks and troughs of teenage romance.

Anne (Dylan Gelula) is a junior in high school and already knows that she isn’t into boys. Her best friend, Clif (Mateo Arias), doesn’t know this and harbours a secret crush on Anne. She, however, likes the school’s popular softball player, Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand) and when Clif finds out, he makes it a point to try and sabotage their relationship - a relationship Sasha doesn’t know what to make of and is too scared and confused to come face to face with what it might mean to like Anne. But things aren’t as easy as they seem, and the more Anne and Clif grow apart, the more she and Sasha grow closer. But when certain choices are made out of spite and to prove a point, the situation grows more complicated than any of the three could imagine.

First Girl I Loved presents more than Anne’s coming of age. Beyond the social commentary that comes to the fore, Director Kerem Sanga’s storytelling subtly and effectively allows her to relate to my inner teen. Sanga doesn’t overly sentimentalise Anne, and Gelula deftly elicits empathy with her performance. The awkward but fun jokes that Anne makes with Sasha in a faux European accent about smoking cigarettes, and her self-imposed, dejected exile in a packed yearbook classroom recalls the inwardly tumultuous nature of being a teenager.

The performances are strong and really show the potential of the cast. Dylan Gelula, in particular, really gives her all as Anne, portraying her outward confidence, but inward vulnerability and insecurities at exploring new territory, but choosing to be herself even in the wake of her best friend, and even Sasha, turning on her.

First Girl I Loved touts a non-traditional narrative structure - which is just one reason why you should see it. The events that take place in the plot aren’t uncommon nor particularly noteworthy by themselves. The sensations that First Girl I Love generates through the fugue storytelling device, however, communicates their urgency and gravity.