Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo was still haunted by her awkward teen years – so she decided to recreate them onscreen.
In her new documentary “You Were My First Boyfriend,” (now streaming on Max), Aldarondo and her co-director Sarah Enid Hagey explore humiliating moments from Aldarondo’s youth through a mixture of voiceover narration, interviews with old classmates at her 20-year high school reunion and taking the unusual step of hiring young actors to re-enact her memories.
“What inspired [this film] was a combination of petty resentment and morbid curiosity,” Aldarondo, 43, told The Post.
“I grew up in a very white suburb [Winter Park, Fla.], I’m Puerto Rican, I was a misfit. I hated high school. And my 20th high school reunion was coming up. As I started thinking about going, I had this very visceral “Over my dead body!” response.”
Around the same time, she said, she also found her old diary from when she was 14 years old, “Where I cataloged all these obsessive thoughts about this boy I had a crush on. I thought, ‘I wonder where he is now? Did he know [about my crush]?’ It became interesting to me. The intensity of my feelings of not wanting to go back there made me ask myself, ‘What if I forced myself to relive my worst teen memories?’”
In the film’s “reenactment” scenes, she dons a wig and ’80s clothes to pose as her teenage self, surrounded by actors playing her teen classmates. This even included having a sloppy makeout session with a 19-year-old actor to revisit her first kiss.
“We wanted it to be awkward, but we didn’t want it to feel illegal and gross,” she said. “I needed somebody who was a little bit more of a young adult.
“Throughout this movie, I put myself in very silly situations – there’s a degree of absurdity. The silliness of moments like that scene helped to take the edge off that painful stuff,” she said. “I’m 43 [and] the idea of kissing somebody that age is scary, in some way. But there were so many moments of comic relief, and that was one of them.”
She also sits down on camera with her high school crush, Joel, and finds out he had no idea she had feelings for him. After she reads him a poem she wrote about him as a teen, he gets uncomfortable.
“I embrace the cringe. It was terribly awkward,” she said.
“But, we think of unrequited crushes as a one-way street. There’s something to be said for sitting across the table from somebody who didn’t know you existed, and saying, ‘I existed.’ It’s embarrassing but it’s also empowering,” she said. “To his credit, he was extremely gracious under the circumstances. He did me a favor in that he was like ‘Why me, why do you care what I think?’ That was a helpful piece of feedback.
“If you’re somebody on the outside looking in, there’s a way in which you can spend your whole life caring what ‘the popular people’ think.”
The whole process was “triggering” she said, because reliving those memories felt like “too much” sometimes.
“I think there’s a reason why people avoid their pasts, and facing it is painful,” she said. “But I also think it’s worth it. I started with petty resentment and fear, and moved to adult maturity and acceptance. I made this film because I was haunted, and now I’m not.
“I really did exorcise my demons.”