When we look back and think of the events that have affected us and shaped who we are as people, there is a strong possibility that they are not all happy events. For most of us it will be a heartbreak or one miserable day but for others it can be divorces or the death of someone close. Each person takes these experiences and shapes their personalities and lives with them or find a way to take them in stride. My First Kiss and the People Involved takes these ideas of a dramatic life shift and looks at what it would be like to experience them through a young woman living in a care facility for people with special needs.
On a bright summer day we are introduced to Sam and her home run by Larry and Lydia, who seem to be going through their own domestic issues. After finding out that a counselor is coming to evaluate Sam Lydia decides to throw her a birthday party during which there is an altercation between Larry and Lydia. The next morning Lydia is missing and Larry claims she has gone into town and won’t be back soon. While taking out the trash Sam finds a bloody heel and sees Larry coming back from the woods with a dirty shovel. Sam unconvinced by Larry’s explanation decides to investigate the matter herself hoping to discover the truth.
Whenever a director and actors undertake a story about characters who are on the spectrum they have to walk a very thin tightrope. They have to be sure that the acting isn’t underperformed while also not over exaggerating the characters. All of the characters in My First Kiss and the People Involved are executed to perfection with only a few moments coming off as overacted. As someone who has worked on occasion with children on the spectrum the nuances in their performances sold me on the characters and how they would act within the story of the film.
When the film begins it is immediately clear that not only has the saturation of the picture been raised but it also has a noticeable grain. The whole film looks like it was recorded on an old camcorder and where that would normally be a detriment to the film the cinematographer used it to great effect. When there are moments of confusion or tense situations the grain is scaled up making the audience experience the confusion with Sam. The cinematography and music, consisting of classical flutes and string instruments, gives the whole film a tv movie feel that heightens the thrilling moments as well as the drama.
My First Kiss and the People Involved is an interesting art film experience that would not play well with a general audience but is an intriguing gem if you give it time. If I had to dive into the symbolism of the film, I would say that it is a divorce allegory and each of the characters is a child of this broken marriage. Sam being closest to Lydia struggles the most with the loss and refuses to let go until she knows why Lydia is gone. The final revelation to what has truly transpired is Sam’s loss of innocence and the film ends on her coming to terms with what has happened in a positive way. This is a film that if you give it your time it will return to you an experience that is as tense as it is hopeful.