How Would YOU Live if you Couldn’t LOVE?

NOTE: This review for “Love Is All You Need” was written for and published on my former site, using my old rating scale. I have kept this review as originally published, with a few minor tweaks.

“Love Is All You Need”, both written and directed by Kim Rocco Shields, is an exhilarating yet terrifying film. From the start, this film acknowledges it is a drama. What it does not let you in on is that it will tear at your emotions by the end leaving you wanting to curl into a fetal position from shock. “Love is All You Need?” is a film that weaves the lives of multiple kids and adults together as they deal and struggle with issues of love, bullying, and prejudice. Emily (Kyla Kenedy) is the daughter of two mothers cast as Juliet in her school’s production of Romeo & Juliet. Jude (Briana Evigan) is the star quarterback of the girls football team, who also happens to be dating the head cheerleader. The overarching twist? The norms of the films world are flipped upside down – homosexuality is accepted while heterosexuality is taboo! In fact, everything is the opposite of what we typically would expect – girls are the football stars, the boys are the catty sorority girls we stereotype, and more. Note, this is NOT a film for the faint of heart.

Before I go into the storyline, I’d like to note that the filming style of “Love Is All You Need” is along the lines of “Requiem for a Dream” and similar movies. The overall storyline is told as time progress, cutting between each of the smaller plot. At the beginning it flows nicely, slow to start. By the film’s climax, however, the cutting of camera shots, angles, and subplots are barreling as fast as the story permits. It is during this climax that the real twist hits – there are actually two different time lines, not congruent! Brilliantly however, Kim Rocco Shields brings the two major subplots together in the same moment where a touching, heartfelt interaction occurs. The direction was artistically handled, guiding both the camera and the actors and actresses to hold firm in their roles and draw you into their lives.

As for the twisting of worlds, the ploy is excellently executed. I have seen a couple movies (and know of a cute campy musical as well), where the heterosexuals and homosexuals are flip flopped. “Love Is All You Need” uses this honestly, to the point of being harsh, because the goal is to truly bring the viewers of our predominantly heterosexual society into the brutal, terrifying realities of homosexuals. This is “taking a walk in another’s shoes” literally. It works. In that regards, all I can say is that you need to watch it to truly understand the experience.

The plot itself tries to come across as modern and up to date – the kids resort to cyber bullying via texts, the issues between religion and societal beliefs continue to challenge one another, YouTube even plays a role. Yet, I also was drawn back to earlier days, circa 1990’s or early 2000’s because things were different. Back then, much of our society were only just starting to truly accept being gay yet we were long ways away from being considered equal. (Even today, we could talk about how it STILL is not equal.) It was common for there to be one or two gay kids in a school – even in large areas. People were in the closet, afraid to come out because of how they would be treated. Add in some of the major hate crime attacks such as Matthew Shepard, beaten and left for dead in small rural Laramie, Wyoming because he was gay. Suicide rates among kids and young adults directly related to their sexuality were abnormally high.

Today, things are much improved. Suicide rates have improved, although are still occurring. Nationally, we have at least acknowledged the major issue of bullying in all forms, yet far away from actually reversing the attacks. Many schools have groups of kids who are proud to admit their sexuality. We now have a majority of society not only accepting our sexuality, but also on the journey to accepting us as equals. By drawing into these themes, while still strongly relevant today, I felt drawn back to my teenage years. Perhaps younger viewers won’t have this part dissociative element.

As for the actual story of “Love Is All You Need”, I will try to summarize the main points without ruining the entire movie – however, the movie will have an effect even if you know the story ahead of time. Jude is our star female quarterback who happens to run into Ryan Morris (Tyler Blackburn), a fraternity pledge, at a party. During their conversation, we see the beginnings of something budding – which remember, is taboo in their homosexual world. As the film moves on, their initial friendship develops until they both realize that there is something more happening and decide to pursue each other in secret. Jude does have some reservations, mentioning them in confession to her Reverend at church, Rachel (Elisabeth Röhm), who sharply brings into play the religious and sinful angle – however in this twist, heterosexuality is the sin. Jude’s girlfriend Kelly (Emily Osment), meanwhile, is gradually pushed away by Jude, until she finally discovers Jude and Ryan’s secret affair. As secret affairs tend to, they are exposed and we witness the star quarterback being kicked to the bottom of the pile – literally, during a football game! As Jude is being rushed off the field by EMS, we watch helplessly as the fraternity brothers take hold of Ryan and subject him to a brutal, savage, “salvation” ritual. Interestingly though, we discover that the driving force is actually Reverend Rachel, not Kelly.

During this, our other major subplot is occurring with 11 year old Emily after she is teased and kicked off the football team. Instead, she befriends Ian (Jacob Rodier) who shares similar interests of croquet. We watch as not only her friendship with Ian bloom, but also as she joins the theater club who are putting on heterosexual Shakespeare’s Play Romeo & Julio – except our theater teacher “corrected” the play to its original format of Romeo & Juliet! Naturally, Emily and Ian are cast as opposite leads, leading to a huge scandal both for such an extremist play to be put on, to the bombardment of the bullying towards Emily for being Hetero. We can’t help but watch as Emily is cyber harassed, bullied by her peers to the point of being followed one evening and beaten up by Ian’s older sister and her gang of friends. Upon arriving at home, however, we only then start the build up towards this story line’s climax when Emily locks herself in the bathroom with a tub of water and shattered glass.

Both story lines in “Love Is All You Need” reach their climax together, which creates a jarring, gut-wrenching viewing which can haunt any viewer. The acting in these scenes are truly phenomenal, especially from our leads, Evigan, Blackburn, and Kyla Kenedy. I won’t fully reveal the ending, however one storyline results in a tragic ending. IMDB’s rating system gave this film a 6.3/10 – This film deserves a solid 9/10. The only reason it is not a 10/10 is because it is a long film and some moments could be trimmed back without hurting the storyline. I highly encourage you to find a way to watch “Love Is All You Need” – and grab a box of tissues beforehand!