Adelaide Film Festival 2020: My First Summer

What: My First Summer
When: AFF is over, but a full release will come, keep your eyes out!

Maiah Stewardson as Grace and Markella Kavenaugh as Claudia

My First Summer is writer and director Katie Found’s first feature film, and if this is anything to go by, she’s going to do great things.

Grace (Adelaide’s Maiah Stewardson) lives in a small town, somewhere in rural Victoria. She’s different to everyone else there. Her mum and step dad don’t get her, she idolises Tavi Gevinson, her arms are adorned by her homemade chunky plastic bracelets; she can’t wait to leave. She witnesses Veronica Fox, a reclusive writer, drown herself in the local reservoir and is the only one to notice a teenage girl fled the scene.

Claudia (Markella Kavenaugh) is Veronica’s daughter, she’s been hidden from the world for all of her sixteen years. Grace is the first person she meets from the outside, and she changes everything. My First Summer is a coming of age and falling in love movie unlike most. With Grace and Claudia, it’s unavoidable. Both outsiders, they have an instantly deep connection. They’re all each other has. And then the adult world closes in on them.

Markella Kavenaugh as Claudia and Maiah Stewardson as Grace

Maiah and Markella both are outstanding in these roles. Their chemistry is electric. The weight of first love and finding yourself weighs heavy across everything. I love the way that Grace and Claudia’s relationship is explored. There are no questions about coming out, there’s no homophobia. The girls quickly and earnestly fall in love with each other, their connection overcoming everything.

This is one of the most visually stunning movies I have seen in a long time. The cinematographer, Matthew Chuang, has worked wonders and every scene is beautifully shot. The never ending Australian bush in the dry summer contrasts with lush, green gardens. Shots through average, country town homes are warm and eclectic. Eyelids sparkle and the light of dawn and dusk colour the girls and their surroundings. Supported by a soundscape alternating soft music with bird calls and bush noises, we are transported to the girls’ world.

My First Summer is beautifully crafted and full of joy amongst the tragedy. It’s deserving of a lot of attention and when it is more widely released, I know that it will earn it.

5 out of 5 stars.

— Natalie Carfora

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