Title: The First Time
Director: Jon Kasdan (‘In the Land of Women’)
Starring: Dylan O’Brien (TV’s ‘Teen Wolf’), Britt Robertson (TV’s ‘Life Unexpected,’ ‘The Secret Circle’), Victoria Justice (TV’s ‘Victorious,’ ‘Fun Size’) and Christine Taylor
The most difficult aspect of high school isn’t necessarily the continuous studying to ensure acceptance into a great college; figuring out how to truly accept yourself, and finding someone who will love you and accept your vulnerabilities, is often a harder challenge. This is certainly the case with the two main characters, Dave Hodgman and Aubrey Miller, in the new romantic comedy-drama ‘The First Time.’ The instant connection between the two makes them realize they had to go through the pain of their past relationships to truly discover what it means to be loved and appreciated.
‘The First Time’ follows Dave (played by Dylan O’Brien), a high school senior who spends his time pinning over his friend, Jane Harmon (portrayed by Victoria Justice), who has no romantic interest in him. But when Dave meets Aubrey (played by Britt Robertson), a junior with artistic aspirations, outside of a house party on a Friday night, their casual conversation sparks an instant connection. Over the weekend, their romantic feelings towards each other intensify, despite the fact that Aubrey already has a boyfriend, Ronnie (portrayed by James Frecheville), who doesn’t quite understand, or care about, her. Aubrey and Dave discover what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, despite her initial hesitance to start a new, meaningful relationship with Dave.
The romance comedy-drama is a true coming-of-age story that comically shows the continuous emotional struggle that teenagers face as they begin to experience love for the first time. Aubrey is initially skeptical and weary about embracing and accepting anyone who truly loves and accepts her for who she is, which is a plausible reason why she relentlessly claims she wants to be with Ronnie. But Aubrey’s internal struggle to deal with the angst of high school love, and fully accepting that she has to work through her vulnerabilities, leads to her having a realistic, underlying longing to be with Dave.
Robertson and O’Brien were well-cast in their roles of Aubrey and Dave, as they portrayed their characters as struggling with their new confusing feelings for each other. Both characters wanted to be unique enough to be truly loved by the people they’re romantically interested in, and truly be heard and understood. The two actors brought a take-charge attitude to their respective characters; when Aubrey and Dave realized they weren’t being heard or appreciated by Ronnie and Jane, they knew they had to find a way to make their relationship work for their own happiness.
‘The First Time’s director, Jon Kasdan, who also wrote the script for the film, created relatable characters in Dave, and particularly Aubrey. She had many artistic talents, including photography, music and creating collages, that expressed her unique, spiritual personality, but was unsure what she wanted to pursue in college. Like many high school students preparing for college, she was struggling to find something that she not only enjoyed and was talented at, but something that she would find fulfilling for the rest of her life.
Dave, meanwhile, knew he wanted to become a teacher, as he enjoyed taking care of his younger sister, Stella (played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones). He’s also a natural leader, as he’s always taking care of other people and considering their feelings first, even if it’s at the expense of his own happiness. O’Brien brought a natural charm to the role of Dave, making it understandable why Aubrey becomes increasingly comfortable in discussing her true feelings and fears about life and love.
The coming-of-age, angst of high school and anticipation for real love is memorably created by the visually stunning sets on the film, particularly Aubrey’s bedroom. For example, set designer Lisa K. Sessions created a vibrant ocean and wave on the wall behind Aubrey’s bed that echoed the fact that she feels overwhelmed by her romantic feelings and the direction where she wants to take her life. The numerous collages Aubrey makes of her friends and family, including her parents (portrayed by Joshua Malina and Christine Taylor), effortlessly show her love of those close to her, even if she has a difficult time verbally expressing her feelings. The various music records Aubrey also keeps in her bedroom further prove her desire to be unique, and that she refused to confirm to anyone else’s expectations. That sentiment is an essential motivating factor of Aubrey and Dave’s relationship.
Kasan created a genuine and heartfelt, but often times comedic, examination of the coming-of-age stories many high school students feel as they experience first love in ‘The First Time.’ He smartly cast Robertson and O’Brien in the lead roles of Aubrey and Dave. Their natural chemistry with each other proves that no matter what feelings of vulnerability people have, they can find the right person who will not only appreciate them, but also support them, no matter what they do. The creative sets featured in the romantic comedy-drama also echo the angst of high school and anticipation of first real love.
Written by: Karen Benardello