YOU WERE MY FIRST BOYFRIEND (2023)
Release Date: 11/08/23 [Max]
Studio: HBO Documentary Films.
"You Were My First Boyfriend is a feature-length documentary in which filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo revisits her 1990s adolescence, a generation after she thought she'd left it all behind."
OUR DOCUMENTARY REVIEW:
This is not only my favorite documentary of 2023 – it’s one of my top three favorite movies this year.
You Were My First Boyfriend is like a warm bath of nostalgia tinged with regret – a bittersweet, unique and relatable film that brought me back to my teen years in all the good ways and a few uncomfortable ones.
From the opening line, “Imagine you had a nightmare where you had to relive your adolescence,” I was hooked. This film is both dream-like and nightmarish in parts, but above all it is real, true and authentic.
Filmmaker and star Cecelia Aldarondo, inspired by the prospect of going to her 20 year high school reunion, decided to truly GO there: she didn’t just attend the reunion, she also intentionally re-lived or reenacted some of the high school moments and memories that she just hasn’t been able to let go of in the two decades since.
Co-writers and directors Aldarondo and Sarah Enid Hagey skillfully weave together a fusion of documentary-style interviews, archival family footage from Cecelia’s childhood and adolescence, charming vision board or scrapbook-style animations, fantasy-like recreations and reenactments, and candid behind-the-scenes footage of all the sausage being made.
I think the latter is what truly elevates this film to greatness for me. We get to see Cecelia struggle with the emotional weight and just plain awkwardness of some of her hand-picked, re-lived and re-enacted HS moments. We cringe – and heal – right alongside her as she reenacts her favorite Tori Amos video from 1992.
Because this is a healing journey. It’s funny, fun, voyeuristic and awkward – but by god, the end result is truly heartwarming, therapeutic and healing. Not only does Aldarondo exorcize some of her own HS and childhood demons – she just might help us all do the same.
Why do we keep engaging with the things that hurt us? Why do we chase people who don’t give us the time of day? Why do we compare ourselves so negatively with others? Why do we turn away from the people who are the most caring and deserving of our time?
These are age-old questions not just for adolescents, but for many of us into our adult years. You Were My First Boyfriend at times feels like being in a very real, very entertaining therapy session - live and in real-time - with Aldarondo.
For Gen X and Millennial-cusp women who are of a similar age as the filmmaker, this film will be as fondly familiar and form-fitting as slipping on an old pair of Sassoon or Jordache jeans from the late 80s or early 90s that still fit (as if).
The final lesson or message of the film resonated so deeply with me that I almost want to get it as a tattoo: “It’s okay to be what you fear the most: a thinking person. A questioning person. An outsider.”
Here’s to the outsiders. Long may we reign.