Review by Susan Kamyab
Oh, young love. It is amazing how strongly you can feel for the first guy you fall for. However, this film isn’t a sappier and dramatic copy of Endless Love. Instead, It Felt Like Love is a realistic portrayal of a young teen desperate to experience the same sexual activities as her best friend, as she forcefully pursues an unreciprocated relationship with a guy who will “sleep with anyone.”
In Eliza Hittman’s debut feature, we follow Lila (Gina Piersanti), a fourteen year old, spending a hot summer in a blue-collar Brooklyn neighborhood away from the city. Often tagging along with her best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) and her boyfriend, Lila is the awkward and quiet third wheel. But as she is riding in the back seat of her friend’s love life, she is taking detailed mental notes of what she feels she should be experiencing with a guy as well. Cue the first semi attractive boy that acknowledges her! Yup, meet Sammy, the “bad boy” with a reputation to sleep around. Seems like the perfect guy for Lila to fixate on for the rest of summer. Completely delusional in her endless attempt to pursue Sammy, Lila puts herself at risk in multiple situations.
As a girl who has never been in love, I painfully related to this film; to an extent of course. Seeing your friends “in love” and doing what couples do can have a strong impact on you. It makes you want what they have, feel what they feel, and experience what they are experiencing. In your teens, this mostly stems from wanting to be at the same level as your friends. Now, I was nowhere near as foolish or extreme as Lila, but the desperation that Hittman wrote in her character is something that almost all girls can understand. We have all had that crush (guys have them too) we liked so much that we begin to imagine what a relationship would be like with that person, specifically thinking of certain scenarios with them. Usually, we all keep these delusional thoughts to ourselves. However, Lila decides the best tactic is to make those fantasies a reality, even if she has to force the hangouts and manipulate the truth. And I have to give props to Lila, because this girl can lie. She lies really well! I couldn’t say half of the lies she told with a straight face.
The fresh cast led by Gina Piersanti is naturally effortless in their roles playing genuine teens dealing with sex, urges, and curiosity. Characters like these have a tendency to be overacted. It was nice to see Hittman’s powerful script didn’t get ruined by heavily dramatic performances. And though you will probably be yelling at Piersanti’s character, she does a fantastic job as Lila, ranging from the harmless school girl crush to becoming the borderline Swimfan. The uncomfortable squirming from Lila’s naïve actions will all be worth it after seeing this film.
Honestly, I expected something completely different going into this movie based on what I saw in the trailer. What I got was much better. I can’t say that this premise will be everyone’s cup of tea. It Felt Like Love is a beautifully shot and twisted, coming of age story focusing on the pressures of sexual relationships for young teens. Though the film has a simple plot, there are many layers to each character. Watching the layers brilliantly unfold is what makes this movie hypnotizing. I only wish the film was longer.
It Felt Like Love opens in Los Angeles on March 28.
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