Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls – ★★★★ (Raindance 2022)

Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls – ★★★★ (Raindance 2022)

Writer/director Julianna Notten has nailed it with her feature debut, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls, a positively refreshing, funny and authentic tale. An integral coming-of-age story for young LGBTQ+ people, but most importantly, just a really good film.

As middle school comes to an end, Erin (Elliot Stocking), the only out person in her grade, and Liz (Jesyca Gu), fellow comic nerd and track star, find their friendship tested when Liz is accepted to private high school. Erin falls hard for the new girl and ex-child star, Sydni (Rosali Annikie).

Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls is that unique film where instead of focusing on someone who is in their senior year of high school or even their first year of college, we have a young girl who has only just begun her own journey and to see these situations in a younger group of people is wholly refreshing as a premise.

Another and perhaps more refreshing thing that writer/director Julianna Notten has accomplished here is that she has provided a film that young LGBTQ+ people can connect with. This is a story about a girl who already knows who she is; there is no big coming-out moment in the final act. Her sexuality is front and centre in Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls, we are just tagging along to experience her journey, and it is so freeing.

Yes, the film settles into a comfortable rhythm of other stories that we have seen before. Still, you forgive it because of what it is doing, showing us that non-heterosexual people exist at young ages and go through the same nonsense that hetero people do. Notten never tries to reinvent the wheel of coming-of-age stories. Instead, she wants a different audience to feel represented, which she successfully achieves here, perhaps even giving older audiences a bit of jealousy in not having the film around when they were of the same age.

There is a slight struggle to get the story to its 89-minute runtime, but its heart and charm carry you through it. Our three leads, Elliot Stocking, Jesyca Gu and Rosali Annike, excel in their roles, all bringing authenticity to their characters that would be missing if the story was cast older. In addition, they bring a bounty of confidence to the movie. Yet, when the film requires them to be fragile, as one would be so young, they revel in the challenge and navigate it with ease, ending up with endearing and relatable performances.

Notten ensures her direction fits the tone of our lead character Erin. It is open and full of energy and, like the performances, is smart enough to know when to calm down and take things a little more seriously. As said, the film does struggle with enough story to fill its runtime, but when Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls is in full flow, it flies by without a care. You sense her confidence in her story (especially when considering that this was originally made as a short). She is a filmmaker. I can’t wait to see more from you. Her voice that is vital in cinema, and with hope she will keep getting the opportunities to represent those who are not shown as much in film.

Without a doubt, watch Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls; it is a charming film that brushes upon identity, friendship and first crushes – a highly entertaining movie.


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