Brooklyn native Hittman on her deft portrayal of young "love" in her auspicious feature debut, It Felt Like Love.
It Felt Like Love is an acutely perceptive observational drama written, directed, and produced by Brooklynite Eliza Hittman. Lila (screen newcomer Gina Piersanti, in a quietly devastating performance) is a 15 year-old in Gravesend longing to have some of the sexual experiences she talks about with others. As the film opens, she is seen as a third wheel hanging out with her best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) and Chiara’s fourth boyfriend, Patrick (Jesse Cordasco). At home, Lila has an uneasy relationship with her single father (Kevin Anthony Ryan), and often confides in her younger neighbor, Nate (Case Prime). What quickly becomes palpable—and forms the strength of this remarkable small film—is Lila’s restlessness.
Hittman takes a canny, voyeuristic approach to chronicling Lila’s transformative summer. Her camera deliberately lingers on the characters’ bodies at rest and in motion. There are marvelous scenes that focus on Chiara’s tan skin as Patrick draws a heart on her back with sunscreen, or the way Lila spies on Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein), a sexy older guy she hopes to seduce. In the process, Lila’s one-sided desires become tactile.
What distinguishes It Felt Like Love from other (and much slicker) films about teenage girls exploring their sexuality (e.g., Nymphomaniac Volume 1, and Young & Beautiful, forthcoming in April) is Hittman’s insistence on engaging viewers in creating Lila’s story. There are significant moments that happen off-screen that are open to viewers’ interpretation—from Lila and Sammy sharing a bed at a party, to a climactic scene where Lila is confronted by Sammy and his friends.
In a recent Skype session, Hittman spoke about how she crafted It Felt Like Love, and revealed her thoughts on teenage sexuality as well as how to depict it.
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