Written and directed by Julianna Notten her inspiration for Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls was born out of wanting to “create a character who was confident in her sexuality without sensationalizing it, whose problems reached beyond the fact that she was attracted to other girls.”
For years, Erin (Elliot Stocking) and Liz (Jesyca Gu) have been outsiders in their class. Erin, the only out person in her grade, and Liz, fellow comic nerd and track star, have grown up with the same young people in their school since kindergarten. This does not seem to bother them until new girl and ex child-star, Sydni (Rosali Annikie) arrives at the school wearing a tee that says “The future is fluid.” Everything about Sydni is ‘bad ass’.
As middle school is ending, Erin and Liz find their friendship tested when Liz is accepted to a private school and Erin falls hard for Sydni. This means, Erin will go to any lengths to get Sydni’s attention even befriendign the ‘popular girls’ in class. Liz cannot understand Erin’s new obsession and feels a bit left out. This is grade eight, after all, and emotions run high. Oh, and there is a big dance coming up too! Erin believes the only way to save herself from certain doom is to ask Sydni to the big dance, but the plan goes array when she starts to lose Liz along the way.
What ensues is a typical coming-of-age, teenage angst story and rom-com but through a queer lens. We witness the intensity of emotions, the highs and lows, and the bonds that form at this pivotal time in young people’s lives. Erin’s Guide… captures the essence of being young, in love, in lust, and trying to find one’s bearing during what can be chaos, in a respectful way.
Like many queer folks around the world, Notten writes a story that includes humour in the story because we can all relate to the awkwardness of grade eight social politics. As the same time, it was important to her “to still treat the feelings and issues the young leads deal with tenderness and care.” She also ensures that Erin’s character lives in a world full of rainbows either. Erin still experiences microaggressions by her classmates, which are still very much a reality even in today’s “progressive” world. The refreshing part is that Erin is free to be herself and is accepted by the people in her life she cares about most.
I really enjoyed watching the film for the various reasons already listed. Elliot, Jesyca and Rosali are perfectly cast in their respective roles. Although they might not be in grade eight any more, it is evident they related to the characters and story well enough.
Erin’s Guide… also incorporates its own comic book – in the form of Erin’s drawings for a fan-fiction book, itself an homage to a comic book she and Liz both love. As well, the music in the film perfectly matches the energy and vibrancy of the young people in the story.
Notten has created a film that will have a positive impact for the young people it portrays and the people they love. It is evident that when queer people tell their own stories on screen, everyone stands to benefit.
Below is my interview with from Julianna Notten and Elliot Stocking; hear more about the making of the film, its importance and its journey moving forward.