Oh man. Young love. What the hell.
Lila (Gina Piersanti) is a teen from Gravesend who doesn’t have much going on in her life. Her mom’s out of the picture, her dad’s always working, and the few friends that she has are, well, to say the least, unreliable. But she’s growing up now and with that, she’s starting to realize more about her self and her own sexual-being, but most importantly, she’s starting to like boys for once. And then she meets Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) a local guy who’s a bit of a thug and a bit of a hard-ass who is the complete opposite from the shy, introverted Lila, but for some reason, she wants him. She wants him so bad, that she even concocts a story about the two going out to those around her. Why? Well, no one really knows, but eventually, Sammy finds out about this and begins to even take a liking to Lila, too, although, it’s a much different kind of love or passion that Lila was ever expecting.
It Felt Like Love deals with young/first love, meaning, it’s a movie right up my alley. But it’s a much different kind of one that doesn’t just rely on smart, lovely insights about growing up, coming-of-age, or discovering who you are, but more of just putting us in the feeling of being in love. Writer/director Eliza Hittman has a very unique style that’s raw and grainy, wherein times it almost feels like a Cassavetes film, but it also never leaves the view of Lila – it’s her movie, the whole time and because of that, we get the rare glimpse at young, somewhat predatory and confusing love, through the eyes of a young girl.
And it’s honestly something that we don’t often get to see, or at least, not at this deep of a level. With Lila, we see her act out in ways that not only surprise her, but shock those around her who feel as if they’ve known her all of this time; it’s actually interesting to see how Lila acts in certain situations, because while we get a general idea of who she is from the beginning, it’s never made clear just what kind of person she is. She stares into space a lot and rather than having everything to say, she mostly allows her eyes to do the talking for her, making her not just a compelling protagonist, but a very believable one who is, yes, a young and shy girl, discovering the world around her.
Which is to say that Gina Piersanti is pretty phenomenal in the role, because she does so much, with so little.
Granted, a lot of it is staring into space and looking as if she’s going to say something, but a lot of that is hard to do and pull-off, without it seeming lazy, or forced. Piersanti was about 14 at the time of filming, too, so it helps give it an even more realistic feel, but even besides that, there’s a certain aura surrounding her that just works and made me want to see more and more of her, just interacting in her day-to-day life. It reminded me a lot of Sandrine Bonnaire’s role in À Nos Amours, in that there’s this youthful, burning passion alive in every scene within this girl, that’s not just waiting to come up, but is ready to explode at any second.
It’s honestly a shame that I haven’t seen anything from Piersanti since. Here’s to hoping that changes very soon.
Consensus: Stylistically speaking, It Felt Like Love is a raw, rather gritty film that looks like it could use a shower, but fits perfectly well with the underlining feeling of obsession, love and passion, anchored all by a great performance from newcomer Piersanti.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: VHX