Written and directed by Julianna Notten,?Erin?s Guide to Kissing Girls?tells the story of Erin (Elliot Stocking), a middle-school youth and the only out person in her grade. With middle school drawing to a close, Erin and her bestie Liz (Jesyca Gu) find that their relationship is in question after Liz gets accepted to an exclusive private school. At the same time, Erin?s heart is drawn to a new student named Sydni (Rosali Annikie) and she begins to focus her attentions on asking her to the dance, pushing her friendship with Liz to the sidelines.
Fueled by wit and heart, Erin?s Guide is an adorable tale that often charms its audience. Led by an enjoyable performance by Stocking, the film carries the vibe of an ?80s John Hughes film with its endearing quest for acceptance and self-discovery in the midst of the awkwardness of youth. (But, admittedly, the film never fully catches that level of energy.)
Having taken pages from her own diary growing up, Notten?s script has a personal feel to it. Even if it isn?t her story, it?s a story that stems from experience and that makes it even more endearing. That?s important because what makes this Guide work is its natural feel. There?s an ease about these characters that, even in their most stressful of moments, seems authentic.
In Erin?s Guide, Erin?s experiences are just a part of growing up.
But that?s also what makes this film so interesting. Despite the fact that it proudly leans into its LGBTQ storyline, Erin?s journey could be anyone?s. Because of its natural feel, Erin?s Guide feels like an advancement for LGBTQ storytelling in that her sexuality isn?t the driving force of the narrative. This is neither a ?coming out? story nor is it a tragedy. Instead, Erin?s Guide simply treats Erin?s relationship struggles with normalcy and innocence. In fact, even Erin herself is even somewhat of a refreshing character. Stocking portrays Erin as confident in her sexuality and unconcerned with the teasing from those who don?t appreciate her. She loves comics that exist on the fringes and, despite her young age, has a good understanding of her needs and wants. There is a strength of character within her that sets her apart from other LGBTQ narratives.
In this way, Erin?s journey becomes about more than just getting that ?first kiss?. She doesn?t need reassurance from a romantic relationship (but she does want one). Although she works hard to get the girl, what matters most to her is simply having meaningful relationships with others. Somewhat of a social outcast, Erin doesn?t seem overly bothered by her situation as long as she has some people who care about her. It doesn?t need to be romantic (other than her pursuit) but rather just supportive. Her comfort level within herself gives her life yet, like anyone else, she also simply wants to be in community with others.
While Erin?s Guide to Kissing Girls isn?t a perfect film, it certainly has enough joy and affection within it to make it entertaining and engaging. There?s a spark within Erin?s Guide that not only speaks to everyone but also writes a new page for LGBTQ storytelling as well.
Erin?s Guide to Kissing Girls is available in theatres on Friday, January 20th, 2023.