“Why do I write like a twelve year old?”
High school love is complicated enough for “traditional” pairings of boy and girl without the myriad other paths it may take. You only have to listen to lacrosse star Toby (Paul Fabre) talk with friends about jealousy-inducing girlfriend Milo (Paton Ashbrook) to understand the multiple layers of connectivity involved when hormones threaten to turn romance into meaningless sex. There’s little privacy, tons of rumor, and a certain standard of popularity to uphold wherein everyone toes the line between prude and slut with hundreds of prying eyes upon them. For Emmily (Crystal Franceschini), however, we learn the inability to stop fantasizing about a crush that barely knows she exists could potentially break more than just her heart. Why? Because she too can’t stop thinking about Milo.
Written and directed by Becca Roth, Yeah, Love plays out with an internal monologue on behalf of Emmily that describes her feelings and attitudes towards the day-to-day suffering of a teenager constantly fearing being caught underneath a microscope. Lacking subtlety at the start with quick jokes such as a creepy dude flirting with her on the subway and a baby-talking Therapist using a doll to assure her she will eventually find a boyfriend, it hits its stride once Emmily finds the confidence to accept her homosexuality. It’s at this point that the amateurish comedy counting on adolescent tropes for laughs becomes a poignant look at the debilitating feelings of one young woman and her discovering the courage to act on them despite the consequences.
There are fun moments throughout courtesy of Emmily being an introvert with no friends yet plenty of sarcasm. She mocks the jocks and pretty people in her head, playfully derides herself for being on the fringes of clique culture, and seems comfortable with this being her lot in life until graduation. But everything changes on a Sunday trip with her dad (Timothy J. Cox) that serendipitously puts her onto Milo’s path in the park. Overrun by embarrassment and the desire to disappear, Emmily’s insecurities are soon replaced by shock when her infatuation calls her by name and walks over to talk. It’s a weighted moment built out of compassion, pity, or deception—the truth hinging on how the next day at school will handle their newfound friendship.
Beyond the technical limitations inherent to a student film—less than perfect visual quality, broad performances, and an overwrought soundtrack—Yeah, Love gets the emotions right when it counts. Franceschini balances the cutesy jubilance of a girl in love with the horror of having her most sacred secret made public against her will while Ashbrook’s coyness keeps her true intentions unknown until the end. What’s really commendable too is the fact that the inevitable fallout from Emmily declaring her feelings for Milo in the vicinity of the “cool kids” deals solely with the universal pain and embarrassment of adolescent love and the immature reactions it breeds. The fact she’s a lesbian does play a role, but the film never puts that above the relationship drama itself.
Rather than settle for becoming a charmingly cute message piece about teenage homosexuality, Roth makes it more simply a story about love where the gender of those involved proves inconsequential to the film’s true emotive quality. Yes it deals with Emmily’s struggle towards accepting her sexuality—as well as Milo being stuck between two worlds with Toby on one side and Emmily the other—but the eventual shot of adrenaline that allows her to write her love note exists beyond that one detail. Make Emmily a nerdy boy named Adam and things would play out quite similarly—as they should. This speaks to the film’s authenticity and art’s efficacy in helping society move towards gender equality by refusing to allow the issue from becoming a character’s sole defining trait.
Watch it for yourself on Vimeo.