From writer and director Erblin Nushi, I Love You More tells the story of an artistic young queer man trying to deal with his feelings over an online romance and a huge inevitable change heading his way.
I was provided a free digital screener of I Love You More for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Spoiler Warning: This review of I Love You More contains spoilers. Tread carefully!
The queer indie film I Love You More tells a somewhat low-stakes coming-of-age story centering on a young Kosovar teen named Ben (Don Shala), who is going through a flood of emotions due to experiencing his first love with Leo (Leonik Sahiti), a guy he met online. The two try to send each other online messages via their laptops and texts over their phones whenever possible over the year they have been in contact. Technology isn’t on their side as Ben and Leo have to make do with the differences in time zones and low cellphone credit. Every text and what they manage to say to each other over the phone means something because they don’t have much time together. Also, it seems both boys aren’t out to their families. Ben for sure isn’t.
There’s not much going on in Ben’s life other than how Leo’s supposed to meet him come summer. That’s all Ben can think about. He wants to see Leo in person so they can finally kiss and hug and stuff. However, Ben’s anticipated encounter is at risk of falling through when Ben’s mother, Nora (Irena Aliu), informs him about winning the Green Card lottery. They are to go to America as soon as possible to be with Ben’s sister. It’s wonderful news, of course. But Ben’s not having none of it. Moving to America would mean losing his chance to meet Leo in the summer.
What follows is a narrative that does a good job of depicting overemotional teen angst as Ben mopes and cries about the upcoming move. Kudos to Shala for playing his role as authentically as possible. Ben really got on my nerves. There were numerous moments throughout the film where I wanted to reach into the screen and give Ben a good shake. Like, Sis! Move to America! You will end up meeting more queer guys than you can handle! Think about the bigger picture here!
The film is very pretty to look at though. I liked how the camera caught the natural sunlight during some of the scenes. There’s a peaceful vibe to the setting that serves as a sharp contrast to Ben’s whirlwind of emotions.
From what I can tell, I Love You More is supposed to be a project very close to Nushi, with the end credits sharing actual photographs of Nushi’s relationship with their mother. Nushi also dedicated the film to their family members. That’s why I don’t want to be too harsh when sharing my opinions. I mean, it’s for sure a nice little emotional queer film, but the plot’s based on Nora having the patience of a saint when handling Ben. And after a while, Nora’s patience stops feeling believable.
I would have liked there to be actual heated moments between Ben and Nora as Ben begged his mother to delay purchasing their tickets to America. Nora did slap Ben during an argument, but the story quickly moved on from it. And if Nora was to be oh so understanding of Ben wanting to stay so he could meet his first love, I think the narrative should have delivered a better explanation concerning her stance.
Apparently, Nora succumbed to Ben’s wishes because she didn’t want him to distance himself from her the way Nora soured her relationship with her mother after running away to marry Ben’s father, Bashkim (Luan Jaha). However, there’s a difference between wanting to marry someone you’re in love with and putting your entire family’s future on hold because you want to see someone you met online without having any idea whether said relationship will last.
I understand giving your children a reality check (experience is the best teacher during certain cases), but Ben’s parents postponing moving to freaking America to do so just didn’t feel credible enough to me. The story could have figured something out to keep the family from moving instead of two grown adults agreeing with what Ben wanted because the plot demanded it.
And don’t get me started on Leo. That dude got on my nerves, too. With Ben being all up in his feelings over finally meeting Leo, he still couldn’t find a way to meet Ben after arriving in the area. Ben was practically begging at this point. That right there should have raised red flags for Ben, but I guess it’s true when they say love is blind. Ben was way too understanding of Leo’s questionable behavior.
Things took a turn for the worse when Ben asked Leo about whether or not he had been with someone else prior. Turns out, the two boys had made a promise to be each other’s “first” and Leo (surprise! Surprise!) broke it. While I got why Ben would ask such a question due to his possessive nature and wanting everything to be perfect and special before he flew away, I don’t think having Ben dream of Leo being with another man was necessary for him to bring it up. Was Ben supposed to be psychic? If yes… then umm… why even add that to such a story?
In the end, I Love You More came across as more of a love story between a mother and a queer son instead of whatever romantic fantasy Ben had managed to concoct in his mind over an online crush. And that’s not a bad thing when adding such a title to the larger queer media library. As I mentioned before, the film did manage to do a good job of depicting teen angst, especially the way most teenagers feel that everyone (including their parents) is against them and as a result failing to realize the genuine parental love standing right in front of them. Even though it wasn’t an easy coming out for Ben, one can argue that his parents were still supportive of him in their own way.
I just wanted the overall plot to feel more believable to me when finding a way to delay Ben and his family from moving before Leo showed up.
Approximately 90 minutes in runtime, I Love You More will be released on Video On Demand as well as physically on February 13, 2024.
You should consider watching it.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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