First Love, Last Rites

Director: Jesse Peretz
Screenwriters: David Ryan

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Amidst the sweltering atmosphere of the steamy bayou country southwest of New Orleans, First Love, Last Rites paints the delicately explosive portrait of a young couple taking their first trip into the enigmatic world of love and relationships. The visually beautiful, lush scenery provides a perfect canvas upon which to paint this universal story with refreshing candor and style.
Just outside a small, poverty-stricken fishing town, Joey

(Giovanni Ribisi) and Sissel (Natasha Wagner) have found a haven within the confines of a simple one-room house raised by stilts off the perpetually wet ground. Separating themselves from the outside world, they believe they are in a sanctuary of fantasy and love. Their nights are consumed with exploratory, if not passionate, lovemaking. But as Joey’s job ventures with Sissel’s father become less likely to garner the rewards they anticipated, their relationship begins to split at the seams. The initial thrill of freedom, lust, and innocence gives way to confusion, fear, noncommunication, and eventual disillusionment.

Richly layered with metaphors as well as genuinely human characters, First Love, Last Rites evokes a mood which provides different insights from the drama and conflicts in the story. Accentuating the standout performances of the lead characters with an equally memorable supporting cast, Peretz creates a microcosmic representation of a lifetime’s worth of travails and rewards—the quest for, the fight to hold onto, and the ultimate loss of love—over the course of one long, hot summer.

Jesse Peretz, Director
In his midtwenties, Jesse Peretz has four short films and over sixty music videos and commercials to his credit, including the “Jimmy McBride, Cab Driver” comedy clips for MTV. Peretz attended NYU Film School, and his student shorts Six Hours from Cleveland and Radio Dreamers have been exhibited internationally at such festivals as Berlin, Melbourne, and Chicago (Golden Plaque Award). Prior to his career as a director, Peretz was the bass player in the Lemonheads. First Love, Last Rites is his first feature film.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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