Inside Out 2021: Our Review of ‘My First Summer’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Images 2021, Movies by - May 25, 2021
Inside Out 2021: Our Review of ‘My First Summer’

Fictional films, shows, and documentaries depict relationships between girls and women as ones with higher emotion. The same goes for Katie Found’s My First Summer, but it somehow works as a counterpoint against media about women because it arrives at those emotions with effortless subtlety. This is at its truest when teenage Claudia (Markella Kavenagh) is by herself feeling her late mother’s energy. Their bond is strong and inescapable, which isn’t always the best thing.

My First Summer‘s has Claudia living in isolation in a rural yet lush part of Australia, her mother Veronica was a writer who kept Claudia with her. There’s a silver lining in Veronica’s passing in that it lets another influence in her life. That’s Grace (Maiah Stewardson), a girl her age who agrees to keep Claudia’s living conditions a secret. Grace, though, has her own dreams of getting out of Australia.

The film rides that balance between taking in the perspective of teenage girls while having a bit of hindsight from adult filmmakers who have other ideas about what’s best for teenagers. It lets both Claudia and Grace play house and legitimize their fears of the outside world without infantilizing them. The closest it has for villains are two cops. But it doesn’t show those peripheral characters as unwelcome intruders to the world they built.

My First Summer‘s subtlety is also an asset in depicting these girls’ burgeoning sexuality. I respect other media when they exaggerate that part of a girl’s growth, but its approach feel like literal fruity essences instead of tacky perfumes. There’s also a pervading air of sunlight here, the cinematography and sets playing with these girls’ open secret. This film earned a cult audience, and it’s never too late to catch this bright, hidden gem.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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