A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's hard but possible, and possibly healing, to confront difficult or traumatic experiences from the past. Outsiders must stick together; sometimes not stopping mean behavior you witness is a way of contributing to it. Don't be afraid to stand up to bullies. People who treat other people as inconsequential or disposable should think twice about the impact. Life is short, so don't waste time striving to befriend people you don't enjoy, trying to be someone you're not, or comparing yourself with the wrong people. Childhood and teen experiences can have long-lasting impacts.
Positive Role Models
Aldarondo confronts her own past in a very honest and vulnerable way. She seems a bit stuck on experiences from her adolescence and uses the film to reenact and work through them. Her sister and friends join her journey, offering feedback and insights. Mean girls in high school treat others cruelly. Adults are remembered for saying unkind things to young people.
The film's subject and narrator is a woman of Puerto Rican descent. She says a few lines in Spanish with family members and talks about some aspects of her family's cultural traditions she remembers from her childhood. But mostly, having a curvy body and curly hair just made her different at her high school, and she's still reeling from that treatment and those feelings. Before a high school reunion, she jokes about wanting to iron her hair and bleach her skin. She says people called her "burrito" and told her to "go back to your grass hut," and she remembers feeling "inconsequential."
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Violence & Scariness
Discussion of suicide. The entire film is built around a woman confronting the difficult aspects of her teenage years. She jokes about it being built on revenge, murder, or resentment, and suggests going to a high school reunion feels like returning to an invisible crime scene. She talks about and reenacts memories of teen bullying, mostly female on female, and particularly of people seen as "different" in a seemingly wealthy and majority White school. That includes kids of different ethnicities, overweight kids, and "nerds." She recalls adult relatives calling her fat as a child and teenager, telling her she'd never "get a boyfriend" if she didn't lose weight, and the detrimental impact this had on her self-image and general mood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Adults kiss and talk about crushes and "sexual dreams" with people they barely know. Teens have crushes and kiss. A kissing reenactment involves an adult woman and an actor playing a teen (his actual age isn't revealed). There's reference to being "horny," STDs, "penis," an "erotic moment" at a school dance, and falling for the wrong kind of guy. Two teens repeatedly watch a scene in a movie with "frontal male nudity." It's hard to make out the nudity on the television screen they're watching, but it's there. Two women reenact a sexy music video.
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Repeated use of "f--k," "bulls--t," "Oh Jesus," "freak," and "nerd."
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Products & Purchases
Some Florida locations, car and clothing brands, lots of ‘80s- and ‘90s-era movies, shows, and artists. The location is a wealthy suburb where teens attend private schools, go to country clubs, and stay in beach houses for vacations.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens and adults drink and get drunk and smoke cigarettes in multiple scenes. There's discussion of spring break "debauchery," parties, "getting wasted," and a scene of someone vomiting from alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that You Were My First Boyfriend has violence, language, and drinking. The film, one woman's journey back to her memories of high school, shows how outsiders and kids seen as "different" -- in this case, non-White, overweight, or "nerdy" kids -- can be bullied or made to feel inconsequential. A school friend commits suicide as an adult. The main subject is of Puerto Rican descent, and she recalls being called "burrito," told she was fat, and asked about her curly hair and cultural traditions and foods. Scenes reenacting high school memories, including bullying and kissing, involve actual teen actors and the adult documentary narrator/subject. There's reference to crushes, sexual dreams, being "horny," STDs, "penis," an "erotic moment" at a school dance, falling for the wrong kind of guy, and "frontal male nudity" (in a movie on a TV screen but hard to make out). Teens and adults drink and get drunk, and they smoke cigarettes. There's discussion of spring break "debauchery," parties, "getting wasted," and a scene of someone vomiting from alcohol. Language includes "f--k," "bulls--t," "Oh Jesus," "freak," and "nerd." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This totally unique and sometimes cringe-worthy documentary feels overly self-involved at first, but it eventually gets around to some powerful messages. You Were My First Boyfriend co-director, subject, and star Cecilia Aldarondo is an affable screen presence. She makes herself fully vulnerable as she confronts her own demons on screen, even if at times those demons can feel a little aggrandized in her memories. You can't help but wonder, for example, if giving quite so much weight to the mean girls of high school, dedicating them decades of reflection and resentment, might also be giving them way more power than they deserve. But just when you think the film is going to wallow in self-analysis or only invite commiseration without further contemplation, Aldarondo throws a curveball that rationalizes why making peace with the past is so important -- to her and to others. One striking scene of juvenile cruelty, reenacted by actors and witnessed tearily by the now-adult victim, conveys the emotional trauma childhood experiences can potentially inflict. A former friend's death reminds us that our time is finite.
The entire conceit of the film is fascinating, and its methods are more than a little uncomfortable. You're not sure what you're watching for a good chunk of the 97 minutes. Aldarondo refers to her quest as an "emotional exorcism." A teen actor calls it a "pretty elaborate version of psychotherapy." Aldarondo stars in reenactments of her own high school memories, scenes which include her dancing and making out with teen boys. (These would surely raise more eyebrows if the genders were reversed.) She sits down with her first crush, now a bald middle-aged man who barely remembers her, and reads him a poem she wrote him as a teen. She continually questions why she's even making this film in behind-the-scenes cuts that add yet another layer to themes of memory, reflection, and personal growth. Though the movie doesn't directly address larger questions of, for example, a generational comparison of self-awareness among teens or the construction of high school identities pre-social media, it certainly points toward them. There's a lot of food for thought here, and this documentary's messages will likely resonate with many viewers.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.