It Felt Like Love (Variance Films, NR)

film felt-like-love-75Director Eliza Hittman is sensitive to the uncertainties of adolescence, and has created a film whose offbeat visual style helps put you inside the mind of the lead character.




film felt-like-love

Whenever anyone starts going on about how adolescence is the greatest time of one’s life, I figure they’re either too old to remember what it was really like, too young to have actually experienced it yet, or the product of a very privileged life that has little correlation with most people’s experience. The basic quality of adolescence is being neither here nor there, and it’s not always a lot of fun, particularly when there’s no one around to help you sort out the possibilities and make good decisions.

That’s pretty much the situation of Lila (Gina Piersanti), a young-for-her-age 14-year-old with a dead mother and an indifferent father (Kevin Anthony Ryan) who has to find her way through a long, hot summer in Brooklyn. In place of A/C, she has a fan and the nearby beach and cheap amusement park, and in place of adult guidance, she has a father who, when she stays out all night, tells her to her face that he doesn’t give a shit.

Lila also has a budding adolescent body, and can be quite lovely when she’s not collapsing on herself in shyness. Unfortunately, that also means that she can attract the attention of men who are only after one thing, and equally unfortunately Lila equates that one thing as the key to getting out of her unhappy state of life and into something better. It’s a reasonable mistake for her to make, particularly since her friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) is not only further along in the boyfriend department, but seems to be a lot happier with her lot in life. Of course, that doesn’t make the experience or its psychological aftermath any easier to take.

Director Eliza Hittman is sensitive to the uncertainties of adolescence, and has created a film whose offbeat visual style (lots of close-ups of elbows and backs, shots that go in and out of focus) helps put you inside the mind of the lead character, for whom nothing is clear. There’s no mystery about where the film is heading: Even if you had never seen a single coming-of-age film in your life, a little knowledge of real-life teenagers is more than adequate to allow you to predict most of the important beats in the film.

Fortunately, the plot is not the point. What makes It Felt Like Love worth seeing is Hittman’s ability to place you inside Lila’s head, and to allow you to observe the story working itself out without judging or condemning any of the characters—well, maybe Lila’s father, but he plays a relatively minor role both in her life and in the film.

Above all, Hittman understands that what Lila really wants is not sex, but she has neither the means to figure out what it is that she does want, nor anyone to help her figure that out. While you may want to leap up on the screen and give Lila a good shaking (many times, in fact), Hittman avoids condemning her, and even the young man Lila goes after (Ronen Rubinstein) is seen less as a villain and more as an opportunist who does what many others would do in similar circumstances. | Sarah Boslaugh

It Felt Like Love will be screened as part of the Webster University Film Series on May 16, 17, and 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Winifred Moore Auditorium (470 E. Lockwood, St. Louis, MO 63119). Tickets are $6 for the general public; $5 for seniors, Webster alumni, and students from other schools; $4 for Webster staff and faculty; and free for Webster students with proper ID. Tickets are available from the cashier before each screening; to learn about other options, contact the Film Series office at 314-246-7525. The Film Series can only accept cash or checks.

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