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#HotDocs23 Review: You Were My First Boyfriend

April 28, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo digs into her adolescent memories of first crushes and awkward school dances in You Were My First Boyfriend, which unfolds as an entertaining hybrid between documentary and high school movie re-enactments.

Cecilia co-directs the film with Sarah Enid Hagey, staging a series of scenes inspired by key moments from her past as a shy, Puerto Rican teen growing up in Florida (she was the type who sent nothing but the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter” to her crush Joel, who she reconnects with in the film). The film follows her as she finds actors to play the roles of high school classmates, with the now-adult Cecilia playing herself as a teenager, and using the recreated scenes as a way to help process these traumatic memories from her past.

The film does lose a bit of focus at times, such as when Cecilia is trying to recreate My So-Called Life to live out her teenaged crush on Jordan Catalano, or in a sequence where she meticulously recreates the music video for Tori Amos’ “Crucify” that feels like it goes on longer than it needs to. But You Were My First Boyfriend thankfully never fully tips over into feeling like a simple vanity project.

Amidst all the cringey relived memories, there emerges a sincere and bittersweet film about learning to love yourself and coming to terms with past regrets, as Cecilia begins to talk more candidly about body image issues, feeling like a bystander to bullying due to her desire to hang out with the popular girls, and letting a friendship fade. The film is at its strongest when serving as a moving tribute to her childhood best friend, who she lost touch with over the years. It all adds up to a wonderful payoff in the end.

Screenings: Thursday, April 27th, 6:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3; Sunday, April 30th, 9:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1. Tickets can be purchased here.

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