First Love – A poignant look at a young man’s difficult entry into adulthood

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First Love is a movie writer-director A.J. Edwards had wanted to make for 15 years: “A personal story with a timeless theme. It is a modern romance, but one not often portrayed quite like this in other films and books.”

“I feel that First Love might be my strongest yet because of what the cast brought,” says the auteur who previously directed Age Out starring Tye Sheridan and Imogen Poots and The Better Angels starring Kruger, Jason Clarke, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley. “And how they truly absorbed the script. They all did really soulful, thoughtful work. Everything up to this last point in post-production was so rewarding and I was thrilled at what was being created and finished. That’s what makes the disheartening end such a disappointment.”

In First Love Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a senior in high school experiences the highs and lows of his first love with Ann (Sydney Park) as they navigate their pending departure to college. At the same time, Jim’s parents ( Diane Kruger and Jeffrey Donovan) are dealing with the familial fallout of a financial crisis.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin was intrigued by the “different style of romance” in First Love. He explains, “I was a little nervous doing so many romances because I would be putting myself in a box a bit, but I think I did the opposite by taking on another romance with such a different style.”

Statemen from writer-director A.J. Edwards

First Love is about faithfulness, family, and the epiphanies we experience in daily life.

The story is simple and universal – the title says it all – but it was the structure of the storytelling that attracted me.

The screenplay is a dual narrative made up of two couples: one in high school, and the other, twenty years into their marriage. In a way, the film picks up where pictures like “Lady Bird” and “Boyhood” leave off, that is, the movie explores less adolescence’s end, and more adulthood’s beginning, with all the responsibility and commitment that demands.

A.J. Edwards is an emerging filmmaker who has worked closely with director Terrence Malick on films such as To the Wonder and The New World. Edwards made his directorial debut with The Better Angels, a film focused on Abraham Lincoln’s childhood. 

The central role of ‘Kay Albright’ was written for Diane Kruger. After my first film with her, The Better Angels, I knew I wanted to collaborate again. She is one of the smartest, most surprising, and most committed artists working today. She devours the script like no one else and transforms the entire set around her for the better. Whether the scene is a page-long monologue or silent and relies on behaviour, Diane gives everything – always. She is brilliant.

The film’s characters, the Albright family, are searching for the everlasting amidst the ever-changing. This search couldn’t be more relevant in today’s altered world. The film is a necessary reminder that we not only come from love but are bound for it.

Just like the movie’s characters, the setting – 2008 America – is changing, too. Shot entirely in Los Angeles, California, the film is set years after 9/11, but before Covid, when our country was in the midst of a Great Recession that upended decades of stability.