New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
Here’s something that many will consider a terrifying fact: teenagers are having sex. While most films dance around the issues or romanticizes it, there are a few that have boldly depicted the sexual lives of very young people. This year, Gia Coppola may be joining the other directors on our list, as her debut film Palo Alto (starring James Franco and Emma Roberts) is hitting theaters soon. Coppola’s film, based on a short story by Franco himself, will follow a group of unsupervised kids who turn to drugs and casual sex for entertainment. And while we look forward to this unique spin on the subject, we have to give it up to a few folks who did it first. Here are five unforgettable movies about the sex lives of kids.
It Felt Like Love
In Eliza Hittman’s feature directorial debut we meet Lila and Chiara, we meet two friends coming of age in Brooklyn, New York. The film follows both girls as they chart out different paths to their first sexual experiences. But the film is especially interested in the performative aspects of youth and sexual identity. Lila is as fascinating a character as she is heartbreaking, and her attempts to either be the woman she is growing into or the woman she thinks the young boys around her want (boys who are also performing their own identities) are often so authentic they’re uncomfortable. The influence of Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl weighs heavy on the film, but Hittman’s unique, contemporary sensibility peers through. Unlike some other films on this list, It Felt Like Love attempts to be more honest than cautionary, even if that honesty makes us squirm.
Johnathan Gurfinkel’s intense Israeli drama centers on Gigli, the new girl looking to make a name for herself at school. A difficult film to endure at times, S#x Acts raises questions about sexual consent between teenagers. Gigli goes to greath lengths to gain popularity, and we watch as she pretends to be sexually uninhibited while often being taken advantage of or even raped on multiple occasions. Like many of these films, the focus is on these young people who seem to have little-to-no parental supervision. But the story gets even more interesting when parents get involved, either by choosing to do something, or choosing to look the other way.
If you took any course on feminism or film in college, here’s hoping you got acquainted with Catherine Breillat. No stranger to controversial pieces (her debut feature, A Real Young Girl, was banned until 1999), Fat Girl stunned audiences with its stark depictions of young sexuality and violence. With a powerful final scene that intertwined both, Breillat’s film certainly had its shocking moments. But some of the best scenes showed the conversations between two sisters (Anaïs and Elena), and offered up two very unique views on love and sex.
Anne Hathaway went from The Princess Diaries to this unbelievably indie tale (directed by Barbara Kopple) of super rich kids with nothing but time on their hands in the Pacific Palisades. Alongside Bijou Philips and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway played Allison Lang, a bored high school student who heads to the hood to find trouble and a crowd more interesting than her own. Havoc is as much about race and class in America as it is about sex, but all of these issues collide in a powerful way as Allison learns that crossing invisible borders is much more complicated than it looks.
Written by Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine, there can be no discussion about kids having sex in the movies without Kids, the movie. Larry Clark’s directorial debut took on sexuality, AIDS, drugs, and New York City in a film that introduced many of us to Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson. Clark unflinchingly presents his subjects as young, free (to a fault), destructive, cruel, and beautiful. He captures the innocence of youth even as it’s being corrupted by the curiousity of youth, and an overwhelming desire to be accepted.