TIFF Romania Review: It Felt Like Love (2013)
Editor’s Notes: The following review of It Felt Like Love is apart of our coverage for the 12th Annual Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information on It Felt Like Love visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @TIFFromania.
The life of the average teenage adolescent is dramatic. Filled with awkward moments and a strong urge to be something more, you are in a place of limbo that has you searching aimlessly for the person you will become. Dealing with yourself is difficult enough; once the concept of romantic relationships is introduced you might as well just give up. It Felt Like Love hopes to explore the concept of young love and discovery but has a real hard time finding its way.
It Felt Like Love hopes to explore the concept of young love and discovery but has a real hard time finding its way.
It is summer outside New York City. Lila (Gina Piersanti) is fourteen years old and struggling to figure out her identity. Her friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) is popular with boys and much more experienced sexually. All around her Lila is surrounded by sexual discovery, only she is left a spectator. Fighting to catch up to her friend, she tries to force her growth. As she begins to push her own personal limits her hopes of maturity become clouded by an oppressive outside world.
The film would like to tell a deeply personal and emotional story. Lila is a troubled girl without a true path to follow. She is left to discover her own way and seems to be taking the most difficult path humanly possible. The story is shackled to a premise that has a kernel of believability but meanders off into a jungle of the outlandish. Each and every character acts completely unnaturally. This does not comment on the actors’ ability, a separate issue that we will discuss later, rather I speak of the script. The film is filled with long dialogue-free stretches and the small spots that include dialogue read as false. It is as if a person with a vague idea of how human teenagers speak to one another was placed in charge of composing the script. Phrasing is awkward and the most absurd sentences are uttered. Even the best of actors would have trouble adding authenticity to the altogether alien screenplay.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the best actors. I applaud Hittman’s attempt in casting actors that fit their characters’ respective age, but these individuals lack training or genuine talent. Wooden and emotionless delivery drags down an already injured script. The relatability of the main character diminishes the more you are exposed to Gina Piersanti’s performance. None of the actors are able to elevate their characters past a basic description. For a film looking to illustrate the labyrinthine psyche of a teenage girl, its characters are one-note and lack complexity. Additionally, the only characters that possess a modicum of likability are female. The male characters are awful. Not their portrayal (well, that’s not great either), but rather I speak to the core of who the men are. There is no ambiguity; this film posits that men are terrible creatures that lack compassion. Each and every man is shown to be soulless and empty-headed. The mistakes of the women can be directly traced back to the heartless actions of men. As this film sees it, men are the downfall of society and will ruin the lives of women.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the best actors. I applaud Hittman’s attempt in casting actors that fit their characters’ respective age, but these individuals lack training or genuine talent. Wooden and emotionless delivery drags down an already injured script.
This film is the feature directorial debut of Eliza Hittman and the lack of experience shows. It is hopelessly over directed. Contemplative shots smothered in surrounding noise make up much of the film’s relatively short runtime. The film’s introduction, an achingly long dialogue-free period, is so filled with forced imagery that it is annoying. You can almost hear Hittman gently whispering in your ear, “see that shot, it evokes sadness”. The attempt plays pretentiously. The images are beautiful and the cinematography is impressive. However, the problem is that the choices do not contribute to the film as a whole. A shot of a spider quietly crawling across a tile floor is visually appetizing but it adds little substance. The film strongly believes that it has something important to say but merely stutters when questioned. Hittman appears to be supremely confident with no clear vision. This piece may work better as a series of a photographs rather than a motion picture.
Setting out to explore the mindset of pubescent youth is no small feat. Budding sexuality, mutable principles and a weakening grasp on self-confidence do not result in a levelheaded person. It Felt Like Love has no trouble displaying the difficulty associated with communicating this place in life. Unlikable characters speak to each other in ways that barely seem human. The script is underwritten, and the words it chooses are the wrong ones. The direction is overbearing. Images are forced upon you with a prevailing undertone of unearned importance. The unbelievable characters are beyond saving and the abundant amateur acting displayed certainly will not accomplish the task. Even the film’s aesthetic, a parade of adequately captured images, is not enough to answer for the massive debts the film accrues. It Felt Like Love is a student film at best and a pretentious mess at worst.