My First Summer is showing at BFI Flare from Wednesday 17th March – Sunday 28th March; book tickets here.
This review is presented in our Quick Read format
Providing us with a delightfully different take on classic LGBTQ+ coming of age themes, writer/ director Katie Found delivers a nuanced and complex portrait of young love. My First Summer opens with police tape flapping in the summer breeze. A lakefront cordoned off as young Grace (Maiah Stewardson) looks on from her bike saddle. Her bike taking her back to the scene of a suicide, one where she witnessed a local writer walk into the lake and never return. However, it’s not the writer’s death that preoccupies Grace’s mind, but the fleeting vision she had of a teenage girl running away from the scene. Her inquisitive nature leading her to the writer’s home. There among walls of books and dusty manuscripts, she finds Claudia (Markella Kavenagh) sitting in isolation, the town unaware of her existence.
Grace agrees to keep Claudia’s existence secret, visiting her daily as the sun beats down on the isolated retreat. And as both young women earn each other’s trust and admiration, it’s not long before Grace and Claudia become close; the empty house an oasis of safety untouched by the world outside. However, no secret can last forever, and the outside world cannot be held at bay permanently.
Katie Found beautifully encapsulates the private world of the teenage experience. Both girls finding peace and serenity in the secret world they create. However, My First Summer also delves deep into trauma and healing. With Claudia finding security in the company of Grace, the outside world a strange and foreboding place. While at the same time, Grace finds someone free from judgement and indoctrination. A free spirit untouched by outside forces with whom she can also be free. When these themes are coupled with Kavenagh and Stewardson’s engaging performances, My First Summer finds its own unique rhythm. The power of teenage dreams, first love and friendship shining through the heat and haze of a neverending summer breeze.
My First Summer creates a magical, otherworldly exploration of sexuality and young love. One that not only finds a place deep in the heart of the viewer but also lingers in the mind. Katie Found not only delivering a breathtaking directorial debut, but one full of the nuance, trepidation and innocence of first love. However, like all fairytales, there is a bite to proceedings, one that reminds us just how fragile teenage love and dreams can be.
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