Set in 1982, Andy Dodd’s short film, it’s a love thing, tells the story of the young, Star Wars-obsessed Andrew (Peter Overal) and his friendship with the new girl in school. Jessica (Hollie Thoupos) arrives in town temporarily, as her father (Phil Jennings) is in the Royal Air Force and moves around due to different deployments. She is immediately intriguing to Andrew, and the two start a friendship, and young romance, with the ever-looming specter of Jessica’s unpredictable future.
Obviously the weight of the film is on the shoulders of the young leads, and such a challenge would be daunting for any pair of actors, let alone a pair of young ones. Overal and Thoupos put in a strong showing, however, and except for a few awkward moments here or there, keep you engaged. Then again, it’s a tale of young love in the ’80s, so any awkwardness in performance only enhances the experience. Especially on their first “date,” when awkward is the order of the day. My, that was painful to watch. In a fun way, but still.
Narrative-wise, there are a few dramatic developments that one would come to expect, but the film makes a bold turn in the third act that is both shocking and, to a certain extent, effective in adding something even deeper to the film. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that it takes what is a tale of young love and adds a new dimension to it, as suddenly Jessica and her father find themselves sharing common ground, and the experience is an opportunity for both to grow. The rub, however, is that the effectiveness is undercut a bit by the end resolution when the “twist,” for lack of a better term, which one might believe is one way, never actually goes as you initially suspect. Unless I missed something…
Vague, I know (or not vague enough), but I had to mention it because it was one of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way, redeemed itself and then felt ultimately deflated of its own power by the end. Whether it’s true or not, it feels like a case where either the filmmaker made a bold choice and then second-guessed that choice at the very end or purposefully manipulated the audience to experience the film one way before revealing that those emotions may’ve been misdirected. Which, either way, is as much a choice as any other, but it didn’t do the final resolution justice, in my humble opinion.
Overall, though, it’s a love thing is a quality bit of filmmaking that tells a young romance tale without getting too cutesy or wallowing too severely in ’80s nostalgia. Its running time could be an issue on the film fest circuit (hard to program 46 minute short films), but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t solid and won’t find a home; it doesn’t drag at all, and really works as it is. I had my issues here and there, but for the most part it looked and sounded good and managed to remind me of a simpler time without, you know, getting sickly sweet with itself.
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