You Were My First Boyfriend (2023)

You Were My First Boyfriend (2023)

PG

A balmy, self-reflexive documentary about the worst years of your life

7.4

Movie

United States of America
English, Spanish
Documentary, Drama
2023
CECILIA ALDARONDO, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Cecilia Aldarondo, Gabriel Kristal, Laura Gallegos
97 min

TLDR

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What it's about

Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo revisits her teenage years armed with a camera, crew, actors, and her diaries.

The take

"Imagine a nightmare when you had to relive your adolescence," says Cecilia Aldarondo at the beginning of her third film, You Were My First Boyfriend. Indeed, the scene recalls a teen prom that could easily be yours (if you were one of the unpopular girls): neon lights, prettier dresses that are never yours, disapproving looks, and the impression that everyone around you is having the time of their lives, while you sit awkwardly in a corner. This image sets the tone for a self-exploration in documentary form that relies on a simple, yet imaginative premise, what if you could re-enact the formative events from back then, but do so today, by directing actors to step in for your past selves. Aldarondo approaches the topic sincerely and with curiosity. Not a pang of nostalgia there, but the heartfelt doc manages to reflect on the pasts that shape us in a witty way to promote self-acceptance and, ultimately, healing.

What stands out

A real feel-good film, this documentary makes a great use of the re-enactment technique that has become part and parcel in telling a real story in the past tense. By keeping things fun and light—and mostly showcasing what happens behind the scenes—You Were My First Boyfriend touches upon deep reflections. Aldarondo is visible both behind and in front of the camera, casting actresses to play her, her crushes, and her friends; she guides them, laughing at her teenage self, while her intention to capture a genuine emotion remains serious and dedicated. Whether she's summoning the feminine power of Tori Amos, or looking for a girl to play her then-best-friend, the director turns her gaze inwards, but never closed off. Jokes, radical openness, and ever-changing film styles depending on the tone of the scene keep things breezy, so there can be more space for re-evaluation. After all, teenage years are a force to be reckoned with.

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