Thanks to shows like Bridgerton and movies like After, Romance films are seeing a resurgence. With the current state of the world being filled with so much hate, people want to see something light where people are happy and falling in love. A.J. Edwards’s film ‘First Love’ starring Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Sydney Park is one of those movies that provides that little escape.
First love deals with exactly what the title says- first love. The story centers on Jim (Fiennes Tiffin) and Ann (Park) two teenagers navigating what it’s like to be in love for the first time. The film takes place in the year 2008 amid the economic downturn. As Jim deals with the changes his family has to face after his father (Jeffrey Donovan) is laid off, he’s also trying to figure out where he and Ann’s relationship is headed.
Because both teens have never been in love, it’s unfamiliar territory. Jim’s parents are all gung-ho for his relationship with Ann and they really like her. Ann’s mother (Sharon Leal) on the other hand thinks that Ann is too young to be falling in love and should go out and experience life especially since she’s going off to college soon.
It’s advice that Ann takes to heart because it really does affect her and Jim’s relationship in a big way. With Ann heading to New York for school while Jim is staying behind to go to UCLA on a running scholarship, it puts a huge strain on them.
First Love is a good film, and it has its moments of generating warm fuzzies. Hero and Sydney are really adorable onscreen, and his character Jim is a sweetheart. It’s definitely a huge departure from a character like Hardin Scott. While I did love this movie, there were some moments that did miss the mark.
One of my issues with this film is that it’s not very dialogue heavy. Music and montages are used quite a bit throughout. We see a lot of Hero and Sydney just conveying their emotions with looks and gestures. There are also conversations happening that we never get to hear. I understand that music drives a story, but dialogue does that much more.
One example of that was what leads up to Jim and Ann’s breakup. It’s shown in a flashback that Jim has but we don’t even know what is being said. The audience knows that their relationship is starting to falter but we don’t know why. It would have been nice to hear both of them voice their feelings. Both Hero and Sydney are amazing actors so they could have been given a bit more with this film.
Don’t get me wrong, the emotion was there and I did believe that they were in love. The intimate touches and the hand placements were some of my favorites but it still felt like they were being held back. Ultimately, I truly believe it boils down to that lost dialogue. One of the longest conversations they have actually doesn’t happen until much later in the film.
That leads me to the transitions in this film. Some of the choices made in editing really bothered me. Going back to Jim and Ann’s breakup is a good place to start. Like I said, there wasn’t a whole lot of dialogue happening between Jim and Ann.
Before they break up, there’s a scene of the two talking about their college plans and obviously it’s one that’s pretty serious because it affects their relationship. When Ann told Jim she was going to school in New York he was happy for her, but he also wanted to know what would happen to the two of them. She explains that she just wants to keep things light and easy and that’s pretty much the end of that conversation.
After that we get to a scene of Jim watching Ann and another dude hanging out. It confuses the audience because we thought Ann and Jim were a couple, but that moment indicates they aren’t. Just because she said she wanted to keep things light and easy did not mean they were having a breakup.
As Jim watches Ann he has flashbacks of his time with her and that includes seeing them argue on the beach in the place where their first date (not sure that counts as a date when they had just met though) was.
Later, and we don’t know how much later, Jim goes to see Ann and they sort of have another conversation about where their relationship stands. Ann tells Jim she thought they were just having fun. It’s clear that’s not all the relationship meant to Jim but neither one of them truly voices their feelings in that moment. And that’s the breakup. There’s no explanations and Jim doesn’t say anything more. The two then go their separate ways.
Another scene that had some weird transitions was the first time Jim and Ann made love. After Jim and Ann go to her room, as they prepare to get into bed, it then jumps to Jim’s parents talking about their anniversary and then we see them getting ready to make love. The scene then jumps to the next morning after Jim and Ann have slept together.
Now, we weren’t asking for them to show the entire scene between Jim and Ann however, with this film being about a first love, that scene should have been more than it was. The moment between the two of them was lost for me the second it went to Jim’s parents. It was an important scene because it was the first time Jim told Ann he loved her. We really needed and wanted the director to keep the focus on them in that entire scene.
Some people might not think things like this are a big deal and I know we need to see Jim’s parents too but, the story is supposed to be about Jim and Ann so that’s who the film really needed to showcase. Because of going back and forth between the two couples, it didn’t give a lot of time for us to really bask in the relationship for them. Not only that but it made their relationship feel like it came and went too quickly.
First Love fast-forwards to two years later and Jim and Ann are both in college and still broken up. They end up reuniting and as all of these stories typically go, they realize they are still not over one another.
The audience does end up getting the HEA of this story which of course we wanted but there were so many missed opportunities throughout telling this story that when it comes it feels a little rushed. Despite the flaws in this film, if you want to watch something that takes your mind off the craziness of this world, this will do that for you.
- Hero really nailed his American accent. We wonder how long it took to master it.
- We just found out that Director A.J. Edwards originally had Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry do the score for this film, but it was replaced in post-production with Composer George Kallis’s. Can’t help wondering how different the film would have sounded if that original score was used.
- Speaking of music, if you have a film set in 2008, we need some music from 2008 thrown in. Jim made a mix for Ann, but we didn’t hear a single song from it. At the very least we should have heard one song that made him think of her.
- With the lack of dialogue in this film, it’s a good thing Hero can say so much with his face.
- The fight scene on the field between Jim and Tol (Harrison Cone) was frustrating because when Ann got mad at Jim I wanted him to say why he was fighting him. He was literally asking Jim for how to get into Ann’s panties! Because he didn’t say anything it made him look like he did something wrong but it also made me get annoyed with Ann too.
- That moment when Jim moves Ann’s hair before they kiss… SWOON-WORTHY.
- Though it was a bit fast-paced, I did love the character development of Jim and Ann two years later. Hero did a good job conveying Jim’s maturity level and how much more confident he was.
- Did not see that hospital moment coming. I was not ready.
- The opening scene with Diane Kruger talking was confusing. Who was she talking to? Was she supposed to be narrating this story?