Written and directed by AJ Edwards, “First Love (2022)” is a romantic drama, now streaming on Hulu. Starring Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), Hero Fiennes Tiffin (‘After’ film series), Sydney Park, Jeffrey Donovan (Law & Order) and Sharon Leal, among others, it presents the story of a family and a young couple in times of financial crisis. We witness a boy grow into adulthood, with a romantic partner to anchor him through it. While following in the footsteps of classics like Richard Linklaterfrom childhood to Hirokazu Koreedais like father, like sonit attempts to be a poignant look at a young man’s journey.
First Love (2022) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis :
Kay (Diane Kruger) and Greg Albright (Jeffrey Donovan) live satisfying lives with their two sons. At the time of the 2008 recession, Greg was one of the employees who was laid off due to the major financial crisis. As he is almost in his 40s, it is difficult for him to find a new job, earn a living and navigate a new way of life. Meanwhile, his teenage son – Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) falls in love with Ann (Sydney Park) from his school. After trying to strike up minimal conversation, their tender relationship soon begins to blossom with a sense of connection.
Kay struggles with her responsibility to care for her Aunt Irene, while Greg struggles to find a job that can suit his level of expertise. His brother, whose job is unaffected by the recession, renders him worthless in his position. However, he is still optimistic that something will work out for him sooner or later. On the other hand, Jim is going through his growth stages while trying to be emotionally closer to Ann. Even when her girlfriends make fun of Jim’s quiet and aloof side, she’s so smitten with him that she doesn’t pay attention to those superficial details.
For Kay, her Aunt Irene is a source of connection that she strives to maintain. At home, she’s not too happy that Jim’s banking ambitions have crumbled and he finds himself lying to his peers about his job profile. As they struggle to find a sense of intimacy amid their emotional distance, Jim and Ann work on the next stage of their teenage lives.
Until then, they could live as they pleased and cherish each other’s company at all times. However, ambitions become paramount at this particular stage of life and Ann’s mother also advises her not to let her focus on them for the sake of a boy. His advice also reflects his years of understanding and his own possible regrets. Subsequently, his daughter broaches the subject of her leaving for New York to continue her studies in their suburban neighborhood. Jim considers it nothing to worry about and notes that they can continue to be together despite this. Maybe it makes her feel stuck and her silence reflects the same.
Meanwhile, after months of failing to find a job, Kay learns that Greg needs to get one to maintain his current lifestyle. He suggests downsizing and it looks like a massive crisis for her since the two have been enjoying the joys of privilege for her and her family so far. In order to improve their family’s financial profile, he needs to find at least one minimum wage job, which he doesn’t want since it doesn’t match his skill level. While Jim is aware of the financial difficulties at home, he tries to find a sense of belonging with Ann, who is looking for a way out. Even when they have a few moments of intimacy, her reaction to them reflects feeling stuck in her current life. Their relationship ends on an awkward note of silence and their paths diverge.
As Kay and Greg move to a new, smaller place as part of downsizing, Kay struggles to cope with this new way of life, where survival takes precedence over pleasure. On the other hand, Jim moves away for his studies and seeks a new identity. About two years into his new experiences, he returns to his hometown and meets Ann again, who has matured like him. Their conversation reflects their understanding of life as young adults, forgiving each other the past they shared and seeking intimacy again, like a found love.
Movie Review First Love (2022):
An uninspired knockoff of Terrence Mallick
As a genre, coming of age has had a particular pattern. A person moving from a stage of immaturity to maturity, from naivety to self-awareness, where moments in his life often lead to some sort of epiphany. They look at each other and see how far they’ve come and what they’ve left behind. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood finds tender moments in its saga of achievement where its naturalism impacts most deeply. Barry Jenkins’ moving Moonlight finds his character’s eternal struggle to fit in with a world that just won’t accept him. Such movies become classics because of their layers beyond the basic plot.
AJ Edwards’ “First Love” suffers from a complete lack of such layers. Even when it shows a white teenager and his family trying to cope with a financial crisis, nothing seems urgent. The stakes of their life do not matter since they have a rather privileged life. Throughout its run, the film focuses on the family’s struggle to achieve the standard of living it was accustomed to in the past. They are limited by their own idea of status and it is difficult to sympathize with such a family.
What appears to them as struggles appears as first world problems. And I don’t want to say that the financial crisis hasn’t been devastating and that it hasn’t shaken the foundations of the world economy and uprooted many lives. But struggling because you’re ashamed of not winning like you used to and failing to live up to the standards of the past sounds like a bloody story, especially when there are several more pressing issues in the world. Still, it might have been interesting to see Jim’s handling of these events navigated, aside from his discovery of love.
However, First Love does not rise above the constrained tropes to tell its journey and relies on the tenderness of its narration. You feel stylistic inspiration like Terrence Mallick, especially through camera moves and voiceovers, in a way that doesn’t feel original. What emerges from the film is a grounded performance by Diane Kruger, which keeps you invested in her struggle, to the point that you sometimes care about these people. Even the young actor – Sydney Park is very impressive in his nuanced portrayal of a young adult. Unfortunately, none of this is enough to compensate for the script’s limitations and contrivances.
First Love (2022) Movie Ending, Explained:
As Ann and Jim resume a relationship together, Kay and Greg still struggle to make peace with their new reduced life. After years without finding a suitable job, Greg remains glued to his couch and would rather watch television than contribute to the family finances in any way. After their heated argument over this, he returns with her to their old home and they have an intimate meal together. During this time, he broaches the subject of moving to another country to have the kind of life they used to live.
On the other hand, the young couple of Jim and Ann decide to get married to commemorate their bond. Upon his marriage, Kay is moved by how quickly he has grown and how little time they would be able to spend together as parent and child. He promises her that he will stay just as close to her and that she will not feel abandoned.
At the end, Greg gives a wedding speech about the importance of moments like this wedding, which become cherished memories for the rest of our lives. On that sentimental note that showcases all of its central characters finding a connection to another being, AJ Edwards’ First Love chooses to end its coming-of-age tale.