“First Love” tricks you by focusing almost equally on the male lead’s parents as they do on the advertised relationship.


Director(s) A.J. Edwards
Screenplay By A.J. Edwards
Date Released (Video On Demand) 6/17/2022
Genre(s) Romance, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour 36 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Cast
Jim Hero Fiennes Tiffin
Ann Sydney Park
Casey Chris Galust
Kay Diane Kruger
Greg Jeffrey Donovan
Jeannine Sharon Leal

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

In 2008, as his parents try to deal with their oldest son going into the military and financial instability due to the 2008 economic downturn, Greg meets his first love Ann, whose mother complicates the possibility of her being his first and last love.

Things To Note

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Cursing (Barely Any, If At All), Violence (A Little Spat Between Greg and Another Boy), Sexual Content (Implied Nudity and Sexual Situations), Miscellaneous (Drinking)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. So, what happened with Ann’s dad to make her Mom so skeptical about relationships?
  2. Why was Casey, Greg’s older brother, even created if he was going to be absent for most of the movie?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Jim

Whether you wish to see him as shy or a loner, what is universally true is that Jim likes to keep his circle small, and until he starts hanging around Ann, he barely went to any social events throughout high school. But, even when they are together, he strongly values their alone time when they are just talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Ann

Ann (Sydney Park) when she comes visit Jim at his university
Ann (Sydney Park) | First Love, directed by A.J. Edwards (2022; Online: Voltage Pictures, 2022), Online

Social and driven, Greg wasn’t really on Ann’s radar until he lied about her having to come to the main office to speak to her privately. After that, she tried to play it cool, no matter how serious the relationship went, because her Mom’s guidance was always in the back of her head, and with Ann going to school in New York, there was no guarantee Greg would last past the summer.

Casey

Casey is Greg’s older brother who goes into the navy and whose life develops primarily off-screen.

Kay

Kay is Greg’s wife who doesn’t necessarily come from money, for there were parts of her childhood where she struggled with her Mom and brother. However, things got better when she was older, and she did her best to financially contribute to her family alongside helping to care for the aunt who raised her.

Greg

Before the financial crisis, Greg was a banker who made a good amount of money. Afterwards? Like many, he struggled with life humbling him and found it hard to adapt to roles that paid less and didn’t have the same prestige. Thus leading to a certain level of depression that negatively impacts his marriage with Kay.

Jeannine

Jeannine is Ann’s mother, who isn’t the most optimistic regarding her daughter in a relationship. Especially one that could distract her from everything Jeannine sees as a higher priority.

Review

Our Rating:  Mixed (Divisive)

Highlights

Ann and Jim’s Relationship

Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) looking over his shoulder towards Ann
Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) | First Love, directed by A.J. Edwards (2022; Online: Voltage Pictures, 2022), Online

You’ll swoon over Ann and Jim’s relationship when it is focused on. It is treated with a certain level of delicacy. It isn’t a hot and heavy romance you can see burning out quickly once they go to bed with one another. Yet, it isn’t so slow-moving that you feel they won’t kiss until halfway through. The pacing of their relationship is appropriate for two teenagers still experiencing various firsts in their life and trying to figure a way to be happy.

It could also be said that, considering Jeannine’s influence and how that plays a role in Ann and Jim’s relationship, there is a certain level of authenticity. Ann and Jim don’t have a perfect high school to marriage relationship. It is complicated by college, family dynamics, and so much more. All of which leaves you to wonder if they are simply meant to set precedents in each other’s lives or potentially be each other’s first and last loves. Which makes every moment they have feel all the more special.

On The Fence

There Is Far More Kay and Greg Than Expected

Greg (Jeffrey Donovan) and Kay (Diane Kruger) embracing one another
Greg (Jeffrey Donovan) and Kay (Diane Kruger) | First Love, directed by A.J. Edwards (2022; Online: Voltage Pictures, 2022), Online

Everything focuses on Jim and Ann’s relationship from the poster to the trailer. So you may find it surprising how much Kay and Greg are focused on. Now, is their relationship boring or terrible? No. However, it isn’t what you prepared for or likely expected. So watching Greg deal with being laid off during the 2008 downturn, Kay dealing with her guardian dying, and how their relationship is impacted by all of this may leave you feeling like “First Love” is operating a Trojan Horse storyline. That is, selling you on this idea of a young romance between Ann and Jim when it really wants to focus on Greg and Kay.

Ann’s Mom and Her Input

For the most part, Greg and Kay are so wrapped up in their own relationship and financial woes that Ann is someone who is known to them, but they don’t provide much in the way of advice or seem aware of what is going on. Jeannine, Ann’s Mom, is a different story. Her input makes it so you could potentially see her as the villain of the story.

But, at the same time, you get it. Jeannine doesn’t want her daughter, who she raised to be independent, smart, and social, to tether herself to a boy and compromise on so much to keep him happy at the potential sacrifice of herself. However, to understand there is something deeper to Jeannine requires you to fill in the blanks of her character development. Otherwise, you’d think she just wants her daughter to focus on having fun and that relationships are burdensome.

The Men Feel More Developed Than The Women

When it comes to Greg and Jim, it feels like you get to know them in terms of what they want, how they feel, and the obstacles to getting that. Greg wants to return to where he was, and his inability to secure a job that will allow him leads to depression and detached from his partner. Jim, seeing his parents struggling, dedicates himself to track, going to a public university, and we get to not only meet his friends and extended family but fully understand the effect of being in a relationship with Ann.

On the flip side? Yes, we meet Kay’s brother and aunt, but she doesn’t have a dynamic with them which boosts her character. Hearing about her Mom being unable to raise her, so her aunt did, gives Kay backstory, but as for who she is now and what’s next? Her life revolves around Greg. What is Kay’s job exactly? Assumingly in real estate, but it’s not made clear. With Kay, her focus is on Greg feeling better, him getting a job, and their relationship suffering because he doesn’t communicate. So as much as there is some effort to make Kay more than someone’s wife, sister, mother, and niece, it isn’t on parity with the men in her life.

Jeannine (Sharon Leal) on her daughter's wedding day
Jeannine (Sharon Leal) | First Love, directed by A.J. Edwards (2022; Online: Voltage Pictures, 2022), Online

As for Ann? The same issue exists. Her dad is an unknown character, and her Mom, it isn’t clear what she does or has gone through to become this woman who pushes the idea her daughter should date multiple people vs. being in a monogamous relationship. Also, in terms of her dreams and goals, yes, Ann is driven. However, what she is going to school for is hard to say. We see her do a monologue in one scene, but whether she plans to be an actor isn’t clarified or followed up on.

Which isn’t to say Jim’s future is spelled out beyond him wanting Ann back in his life, graduating from school, and getting some kind of job, but it does seem like the men get to be central to the plot of “First Love” while the women mostly revolve around them. Even if they have a few moments or details to show, they are, on occasion, able to pull away from their partner’s orbit.

Movie Directory

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On The Radar


Ratings

  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
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  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
  • Ending Spoilers: Trying to remember how a film ended, or want a different take on the ending, then check out the "ending spoilers" category. 
Title Card - First Love (2022)
First Love (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Overall
“First Love” is a bit disappointing due to it heavily featuring Jim’s parents, almost equally to Jim and Ann, and that relationship not giving you butterflies or anything you’d expect from the trailer's tone. More so, it often feels like Jim and Ann were used to sell the film, but what Edwards wanted you to see is a relationship struggling thanks to the 2008 economic crisis.
Highlights
Ann and Jim’s Relationship
Disputable
The Men Feel More Developed Than The Women
Ann’s Mom and Her Input
On The Fence There Is Far More Kay and Greg Than Expected
79
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Avatar of Amari

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

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