Lila (Gina Piersanti) wants to emulate the sexual exploits of her more experienced best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni). When she fixates on older Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) and attempts to insert herself into his world, she puts herself in a series of dangerously-vulnerable situations. (logline)
It Felt Like Love marks the feature-length debut of Eliza Hittman, who crafts an almost dream-like representation of the summer of an adolescent girl. The film flashes much talent and confidence from the New York filmmaker, and is the first step in what may likely be a promising career.
Initially, the film feels like the classic plot of an adolescent “late bloomer” attempting to discover herself and her body while constantly being around those that have much greater knowledge on the topic. While I can’t speak from personal experience, the contrast is how It Felt Like Love comes across as a more realistic approach to the woman’s adolescent narrative. Namely, it thankfully differs from the tattered Hollywood route of a young girl triumphantly catching the eye of her crush by simply removing her glasses. This narrative pulls no punches and hides nothing with comic relief. Hittman instead presents us with a much darker take on the sexual awakenings, curiosities, and frustrations of an adolescent.
Gina Piersanti flourishes in her role as Lila, the inexperienced member of the group — forced to lie about her “exploits” in order to maintain the falsehood that she is on the same page as those that surround her. She provides a close look at the age in which young girls attempt to “try on” a variety of personalities to see which one fits best. Little seems perfectly clear to Lila, a girl who vouches for the concept of true love in one scene and then puts herself in a situation that any parent would fear in the next.
One of the more noticeable facets of the film is the dialogue, or the lack thereof. The first spoken words come nearly five minutes into the runtime and don’t become much more frequent thereafter. It Felt Like Love turns this to an advantage, and it honestly works. When a young girl spends much of her days in the shadow of her (clearly happier) friend and her boyfriend, how much is there to vocalize? Lila is the unfortunate definition of a third wheel and is experiencing new things by watching others rather than experiencing them herself. Piersanti sells every aspect of this performance, as we follow her through the various daydreams (and nightmares) of Lila.
The film is an interesting take on how today’s society has affected the expectations of female adolescence, in addition to sharing a thought or two about the unequal standards for men and women in regards to how they should handle their blooming sexuality. Showcasing quite a bit of talent on both sides of the camera, It Felt Like Love manages to thrive on its challenging themes, beautiful cinematography, and the natural performances of its young stars.
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