Why Everyone Should See ‘First Girl I Loved’

By Isabella Cornell

At it’s Australian premiere, the chuckles throughout the audience- which in many scenes on the surface would have seemed out of place- echoed the sentiment of a largely adult audience viewing some all to familiar, awkward and cringe worthy scenarios which replicated their young experiences almost too well. It seemed for many, to be the film they wished they had as teenagers.

Premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and winning the Audience Award for “Best of NEXT”, the film takes the form of a romantic comedy- following the trials and tribulations of first queer loves and friendship and carefully navigating issues of consent, homophobia and sexism. In the protagonist of Anne, the audience is presented with an undeniably familiar and relatable character, whose experiences are yet strikingly refreshing all at once.

Though it would be nice to have an utterly romanticised, rose coloured look at what first queer loves might look like, it would not be doing justice to the experiences that many young queer people are living everyday. This film does that. Heartbreaking and hilarious often all at once, this film is landmark in its rawness and familiarity as a coming of age drama for queer kids. It has the ability to feel enduringly relevant and familiar for its young audiences, and heart achingly nostalgic for older viewers.

This film does not shy from reality. First Girl I Loved is unabashedly and unapologetically teenage. It is cringeworthy, it is awkward and it is messy. It shows the reality of teenage love, especially the messy terrain of queer love, in its harsh, beautiful, but more often than not, painfully awkward manner.

At times it draws from the canon of teen coming of age tales that flood our film industry, but highlights the ways in which these narratives are often inaccessible or barred for many of those who identify as queer- and for this, it is important.

For its young audience demographic, it captures an undeniable truthfulness in a range of teenage experiences, fraught with issues around consent, homophobia, sexism, flirting, sexting…. Nothing about this film is easy, it is frank and honest in its probing representation of queer experiences. But if there was one way to wrap up the importance of this film it would be to say – finally.

Catch First Girl I Loved on the 13th of May at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

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