First Blush is the first film from Victor Neumark, and seeks to tackle an often overlooked area of the romance genre: polyamorous relationships. Queer films have been getting more and more mainstream attention over the years thanks to the increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s not unusual to see more films that feature less ‘traditional’ types of relationships and families. But polyamory is still one that doesn’t really get covered much, and there’s still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about it.
In the most basic sense, a polyamorous relationship is one that features more than two people. There are various forms this can take, from one person in the relationship having two partners who aren’t involved with each other, to three or more people all in a relationship together. But the one thing that’s always a part of these kinds of relationships is that everyone knows about it, and everyone consents; it’s not about cheating.
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This film takes a look at the second kind of polyamorous relationship, and follows married couple Drew (Ryan Caraway) and Nena (Rachel Alig) as their relationship goes through some changes. It all begins when Nena is given a surprise birthday party, where her friend has invited her new coworker Olivia (Kate Beercroft) along to pad out the numbers a little. Nena instantly notices Olivia, and the two of them clearly have a lot of chemistry.
It’s not until Olivia goes camping with the two of them, and has to share a tent with them, that things start to get more complicated as she and Nena kiss. This would probably be the part of most films where things begin to go wrong for the married couple, where Nena would have to question which relationship she wants, of who she wants to be with, but First Blush shows a very different scenario, one where Drew is okay with Nena’s feelings. Instead of arguing about things he supports his wife, and is okay to see where this might lead. And it turns out where it leads is the three of them developing feelings for each other and entering a relationship.
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Obviously, thing’s aren’t completely smooth sailing from there, mainly because there wouldn’t be much for the film to do if it was, but it’s also because this is a kind of relationship that’s new to all three members of it, and they have to navigate things like their feelings for each other, how the relationship works, jealousy, and the way other people react to them. This is the real heart of the movie, as we get to see Nena, Drew, and Olivia figure things out, examine their shifting emotions, and decide if this is the best kind of relationship for them. This is also the part of the film that I think is the most realistic, most heartfelt, and the most important.
I’m in a polyamorous relationship. It’s why I wanted to watch this film, to see if it was going to be something that sensationalised this kind of relationship, made it about titillation and scandal, or if it would take a more human approach. I’m pleased to say that all of the worries I had going into it, of all the things the film could have done wrong, turned out to be for nothing, as this is one of the most honest depictions of my kind of relationship I’ve ever seen.
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There are differences. I was lucky enough to not have to go through the drama and jealousy of figuring out the dynamic of my relationship as my partners and I just naturally settled into an equal and happy relationship, but I do recognise a lot of what the characters went through, even if it is a more heightened version. I’ve seen friends and family react the way they do in this film, thinking it’s outrageous that you love more than one person at the same time, and I’ve seen the love and joy that being with two people who love you can bring.
First Blush doesn’t try to make a mockery of people who have these kinds of relationships. It doesn’t sensationalise or ridicule, it simply shows another way of loving people in an honest and open way. The cast don’t treat the material any differently to any other kind of romance film, and they put everything into their performances, giving some truly moving moments, as well as some that will have you laughing out loud. Whether you’ve been in a polyamorous relationship or not, or even never heard of polyamory before, this is a film that simply shows love, and how wonderful it can be; and there’s nothing bad about that.
First Blush is out now on various digital and cable programs in the US and Canada.