×

It Felt Like Love

An evocatively shot, rawly unsentimental coming-of-ager from debut helmer Eliza Hittman, "It Felt Like Love" follows a vulnerable teen who envies the sexual experience of her confident older friend and determines to have a relationship of her own.

With:
With: Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Jesse Cordasco, Nick Rosen, Case Prime, Kevin Anthony Ryan.

An evocatively shot, rawly unsentimental coming-of-ager from debut helmer Eliza Hittman, “It Felt Like Love” follows a vulnerable teen who envies the sexual experience of her confident older friend and determines to have a relationship of her own. The writer-director’s stress on the small, degrading details that attend yearning as well as her protagonist’s desperation and self-deception make it more mood piece than straightforward narrative, but the ultra-confident production proves that Hittman’s a talent to watch. Nevertheless, critical and fest admiration are likely to trump commercial success here. The microbudget indie will next court Euro buyers from Rotterdam’s Tiger competition.

It’s summer in working-class Brooklyn. Wide-eyed, 14-year-old Lila (Gina Piersanti) tries to learn from her experience as third wheel in the relationship of charismatic Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) and her boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco). Not only is she witness to their heavy petting sessions on the beach and in the bedroom, but Chiara confides intimate details that virginal Lila only pretends to understand.

Popular on Variety

When Lila sets her sights on thuggish college boy Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein), she impetuously claims a level of sexual expertise that sets her up for humiliation and heartbreak. Although Sammy isn’t interested, he doesn’t — at first — reject her outright, and the mere fact he answers her texts encourages her to spin more lies: to Chiara, her neighbor Nate (Case Prime), her distracted father (Kevin Anthony Ryan) and herself.

Hittman’s screenplay was written around the talents of her impressive non-pro cast, with the modern-dance expertise of Piersanti and Salimeni, both highly credible thesps, figuring prominently. However, with the central emphasis on Lila’s unsentimental education, the narrative fails to provide the character with enough likability to balance her obsessive pursuit of Sammy and her ill-judged bravado.

In her interactions with her father, Lila comes off a typical sullen teen. It is only late into the film when audiences learn something that might be an underlying psychological factor for her behavior. The odd, unclimactic final scene brings the dance rehearsals full circle, but still feels able to be improved on.

Tightly framed, expressive lensing by Sean Porter (“Eden”) supports the poetic realism of the visuals, and calls to mind the beach photographs of Rineke Dijkstra, Lynne Ramsay’s “Ratcatcher” and Cate Shortland’s “Somersault.” Spot-on costume and accessory design by Sarah Maiorino telegraphs reams of information about the characters while feeling completely natural.

The music is diegetic, with song selections related to the hip-hop and rapping talents of the young male cast. More important is the rich sound design, in which the heartbeat of nature, particularly the roar of the waves, align the audience with the rush of Lila’s emotions.

It Felt Like Love

Production: A Bay Bridge Prods., Infinitum Prods. production in association with the Group Entertainment, Verisimilitude with the support of Film Independent, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute, the New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture & Television Development. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Eliza Hittman, Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner. Executive producers, Tyler Brodie, Hunter Gray, Gill Holland. Directed, written by Eliza Hittman.

Crew: Camera (color, HDcam), Sean Porter; editors, Carlos Marques-Marcet, Scott Cummings; production designer, James Boxer; costume designer, Sarah Maiorino; sound, Austin Moore; sound designer, Nathan Ruyle; sound effects editor, Aaron Bartscht; associate producer, Molly Gandour; casting director, Henry Russell Bergstein. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 20, 2013. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 82 MIN.

Cast: With: Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Jesse Cordasco, Nick Rosen, Case Prime, Kevin Anthony Ryan.

More Scene

  • Sean Penn CORE Gala

    Sean Penn Offers to Take Selfies in Exchange for $5,000 Donations to Disaster Relief

    A decade after the catastrophic 7.0 Haiti earthquake left between 50,000 and 100,000 dead and nearly a million people displaced, Sean Penn hosted the 10th anniversary CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) gala, raising funds for international disaster relief at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “We’re not here tonight because we want [...]

  • Allison Janney Viola Davis

    Viola Davis & Allison Janney React to Lack of Diversity in 2020 Oscar Nominations

    Monday morning’s Oscar nominations rebooted the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, reigniting discussion about representation after women were shut out of the directing category and only one person of color — Cynthia Erivo — was nominated in the acting categories. At the premiere of Amazon Original’s “Troop Zero” at The Grove in Los Angeles on Monday evening, the [...]

  • Star Trek Picard Premiere

    'Picard' Stars Reveal Which 'Star Trek' Character They Would Get Drunk With

    The cast and creators of “Star Trek: Picard” turned out for the show’s premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Monday night. In the spirit of the festive atmosphere of the night, Variety asked them which “Star Trek” character, past or present, they’d most like to pound a few Romulan ales with at the local [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Laura Dern

    Inside the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    ‘Twas the night before Oscar nominations and all through the ballroom, the Barker Hanger was buzzing as critics mixed and mingled with A-listers inside the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday night. Life Achievement winner Eddie Murphy, #SeeHer honoree Kristen Bell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bong Joon Ho were among the big names who played [...]

  • Taye Diggs Critics Choice

    Critics' Choice Awards: The Complete Winners List

    The 25th annual Critics’ Choice Awards gala, hosted by Taye Diggs, was broadcast live on The CW on Sunday night. It was a good night for both Netflix and HBO, with the studios taking home trophies for movies and shows like “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “When They See Us,” “Watchmen” and “Succession.” “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content