Queer Screen Film Fest Review: The First Girl I Loved (USA, 2016)

The First Girl I Loved – set to screen as part of the Queer Screen Film Fest in Sydney – follow seventeen year old Anna (Dylan Gelula from Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), a young, smart yet quiet photographic student.  Anna notices Sasha, played by Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool), playing sport and instantly Anna, who until now thought she was into boys, begins to have strong feelings towards this girl she barely knows.

Using her journalistic status, she takes on an interview with Sasha at her home after school, digging her for awkward questions such as ‘do you have a boyfriend’? The two connect and over a few days become closer and closer. When Anne tells her best friend Clifton (Nateo Arias), how she feels for another woman, Clifton becomes extremely disturbed and begins to sabotage their new found relationship.

The chemistry between Anna and Sasha is an addictive watch. However, when the second half of the film gets underway, it loses a bit of its character and I’m not sure it knows what kind of movie it wants to be. At first it’s a new age love story, followed by a jealous revenge plot and later a mild legal drama.

The boy meets girl next door relationship between Anna and Clifton is paper thin and one sided. It becomes predictable the moment Anna has feelings for someone other than him, he loses the plot. It’s quite scary actually. I was honestly on board with this kind of thriller until it does a complete U-turn.

I am sure a lot of people can relate to being scared of coming out and I admire anyone that takes the risk, but the film doesn’t focus on these fears at all. It goes straight from Sasha being a beautiful, kind and caring girl falling in love, to a complete narcissist. It didn’t fit. There was no real end-game or any clear message in the film. It felt like director Kerem Sanga struggled to find an ending.

The film however is beautifully shot. Even in the slow moving sequences, the burst of sunrise through early morning fog, the subtle innocence of Sasha’s hand caressing Anna’s hair, the smaller frames are what stuck most. I can see why many would have loved the film, but the character’s sudden transformations infuriated me more than I needed them to.

Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand)
Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand)

It is a real shame because most of the characters on screen had such amazing chemistry. Brianna Hildebrand as Sasha is proficient and beautiful to watch in an otherwise slow plodding first act. It took so long to get used to Hildebrand’s long locks of hair after seeing her as the shaved headed ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ from Deadpool. She delivers such a natural energetic roller-coaster of emotion and it really shows the diverse career Hildebrand has in store.

I really enjoyed the first half of this film and Dylan’s Anna is the only character in the film that stays the same throughout. Anna knows who she is and what she wants. It’s a damn shame this movie doesn’t.


The First Girl I Loved screens on 21st September 2016 as part of the 4th annual Queer Screen Film Fest in Sydney. For more information and tickets please click HERE.


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