It’s a Love Thing (2012) – By Cary Conley

As an indie film reviewer, I see all kinds of movies across literally every genre. Some are good, some are bad, and occasionally I receive a film that is so truly awful that it makes me think twice about continuing as a reviewer. And every once in a while a film comes along that is so special that it renews my passion for the indie scene and reminds me exactly why I screen so many films a year. It’s a Love Thing falls into this last category.

Written and directed by Andy Dodd, the film tells the story of two youngsters circa 1982, Andrew and Jessica. Andrew is a bit of a nerd and has a passion for all things Star Wars while Jessica is the new kid just arrived in town. Being consumed by Star Wars and Atari, Andrew hasn’t really begun to notice girls, but on Jessica’s first day he does take note–of her Star Wars t-shirt. Andrew immediately knows this is a match made in heaven but certainly doesn’t know how to approach the new girl. Thankfully for Andrew, Jessica also notices him and the two quickly become fast friends. As the relationship progresses, it begins to turn into something more than just a friendship, but neither child is comfortable enough with their budding love to know how to deal with it. They just know that they enjoy being together. As a token of their relationship, Andrew gives his Boba Fett figurine to Jessica.

The pair quickly become inseparable, but Jessica’s father is in the RAF and he is called into action, forcing Jessica to have to move yet again. This time, however, the move is particularly painful for both Jessica as well as Andrew. The two had planned to attend a school dance, which would have been their first official "date". As Andrew sits quietly outside the classroom, saddened by Jessica’s absence, he is surprised to see Jessica again. Apparently the young lady has managed to coax her grandfather into staying with her in her father’s house so she can continue to be with Andrew.

It’s a Love Thing is one of the sweetest films I’ve ever seen. Dodd’s script deftly manipulates the viewer’s emotions while the score blends perfectly with the action on screen. Peter Overal stars as slightly nebbish Andrew who until now has never even noticed the girls at school. He falls head-over-heels into puppy love with no idea how to handle his feelings. Overal does a fine job portraying a boy who is just realizing he’s met his first love. His characterization of the totally innocent and utterly clueless Andrew is highly authentic and reminded this reviewer of grade school all over again. Highlights include Andrew practicing what to say to Jessica using a toy soldier. Hollie Thoupos stars as the slightly more worldly Jessica, and she is absolutely magical in the role. A beautiful young lady in her own right, the Cindy Lauper-esque costume choices and 1980’s hair also brought back memories. These two actors have a wonderful onscreen chemistry together. Their first awkward conversation is simply classic and the viewer can feel their pain and humiliation as they learn about each other. Later on though, as they become close friends, scenes of them in the park throwing bits of wood at each other or playfully pushing each other off the sidewalk illustrate perfectly the relationship in full bloom.

Dodd has also seen fit to insert some truly spectacular surprises that will wrench the viewer’s heart, first breaking it in half and then in the end mending it. The first surprise literally caused me to gasp audibly while the ending caused me to tear up with pleasure. Simply put, It’s a Love Thing is a truly remarkable piece of work that deserves a wide audience. Films such as these are why I wade through a dozen or more screeners each month.

It’s a Love Thing has just been completed and is now making its way onto the festival circuit. If you have a chance to see the film, I heartily recommend that you seize that opportunity. Folks, don’t miss this one!