REVIEW: ‘You Were My First Boyfriend’ is a Bittersweet Return to Awkward Youth

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You Were My First Boyfriend - But Why Tho

It’s an instantly recognizable feeling to look back on your teenage years and wince. Maybe your fashion choices leave you cringing. Maybe awkward memories of crushes and school dances make you blush. Maybe your time as a teen was pockmarked by insecurity and incidents that haunt you. They’re called our formative years for a reason. These are the moments that will shape us and linger. In the SXSW 2023 documentary feature, You Were My First Boyfriend, all of those experiences are laid bare in a bittersweet return to awkward youth that is equal parts warm, hilarious, and painful.

In You Were My First Boyfriend, director Cecilia Aldarondo (along with co-director Sarah Enid Hagey) ask the question “What if you could rewrite your adolescence?” Aldarondo confronts her complicated teen years head-on by interviewing friends, tormenters, and crushes, re-enacting her most vivid teen memories, and inserting her adult self into the pop culture touchstones that had the most profound effect on her as a teen.

The result is a delightful blend of fictionalized sequences and documentary realities, on a rapidly flipping time jump between past and present. Seeing Aldarondo placed back in those moments of teen vulnerability makes the awkwardness of adolescence all the more awkward and it immediately propels the viewer not just to a deeper understanding of Aldarondo’s perspective, but to that same moment in their own life.

True to the nature of memory, it’s both possible to look back on our most embarrassing moments and laugh at them, but also have an appreciation and understanding for how that one instance left a scar that we’re still processing. Hilarity and trauma are more closely related than we often realize and that is the entire point of You Were My First Boyfriend. Aldarondo is not just exploring the long-term impact of these teen experiences, but she’s unpacking identity.

You Were My First Boyfriend is more than just a deep dive on the cringeworthy moments in our development, it’s an exercise in healing – and it’s the story of a friend. A vital thread that Aldarondo pulls on, in understanding her youth, is a friendship that was a place of safety and refuge before the relationship slowly faded. That friendship illustrates every element of identity, belonging, and uncomfortable change that encompasses the exploration of adolescence that Aldarondo has embarked on. The story of that friendship regrettably ended in loss, solidifying what any viewer understands: life is short and those moments of joy in youth may be fleeting, but they are worthy of remembering above the low moments.

Watching You Were My First Boyfriend takes the viewer through all of the laughter, tears, smile, and cringes of being a teenager. Aldarondo demonstrates a commitment to seriously exploring the oft-overlooked experiences of teenage girls that is refreshing and heartening. The film allows itself to be silly, but never belittles the content of its message. An absolute knockout and a must-see.

You Were My First Boyfriend made its World Premiere on March 10, 2023 at the 2023 SXSW Film and Television Festival in Austin, TX. The film will screen again, during the festival, on March 12 at 2:15pm and March 15 at 11:45am.

You Were My First Boyfriend
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10


Watching You Were My First Boyfriend takes the viewer through all of the laughter, tears, smile, and cringes of being a teenager.

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