Cecilia Aldarondo takes the process of reliving adolescent trauma to a literal degree in “You Were My First Boyfriend,” her feature that falls somewhere between documentary and diaristic re-enactment. Spurred by her 20-year high school reunion in Winter Park, Fla., Aldarondo pulls back layers of memories and old home-movie footage to investigate the significant relationships of her formative years: her first intense crush, her bullies, and her childhood best friend and fellow outsider, Caroline.
To face down her demons, Aldarondo enlists a cadre of child actors to recreate scenes from her time in high school — both memories of real events and fantasy sequences — in which Aldarondo portrays her own teenage self. The film documents the making of these scenes as much as the final product, a process that can be equal parts touching and awkward. When Aldarondo gets in touch with the now grown-up Joel, the boy she had a crush on for six years, she chooses to read a poem she wrote about him during the peak of her obsession — a decision that makes even her current partner, Gabe, cringe with embarrassment.
However, despite its title, “You Were My First Boyfriend” is at its most effective when Aldarondo moves beyond teen lust and into the more complicated aspects of her upbringing. Her Puerto Rican heritage made her an easy target for bullying at her predominantly white high school, but Aldarondo was not exempt from acting cruel to those around her to fit in. She rehashes those nuances through, among other things, creating a shot-for-shot remake of Tori Amos’s “Crucify” music video with her sister Laura. It’s just zany enough to work.
You Were My First Boyfriend
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on HBO platforms.