An invitation into Nina Davenport’s being, and vagina, as her bio-clock slowly ticks down and she ponders the idea of single motherhood through in vitro fertilization, First Comes Love steadily checks off a virtual laundry list of chick-flick hokum, offering little in the way of actual nuance or substance concerning the filmmaker’s situation. It assumes everyone has seen the canon of Richard Curtis or the complete Carrie Bradshaw anthologies, but instead of acknowledging a certain audience desensitization to rom-com tropes by filming a literal slice of life with psychological complexity, the documentary reinforces the sentiment that cinema and reality’s boundary is practically nonexistent.
First Comes Love may recall the autobiographical cinema of Ross McElwee, but at least McElwee’s charming neurosis offset any egotism, as his series of documentaries explores the personal as it digresses from broader topics (i.e. General Sherman’s march on the South, the tobacco industry). Davenport doesn’t seem interested in taming her unwieldy vanity, and thus her documentary reads as a Match.com profile recontextualized as cinema narcissismo.
Navigating through the New York dating scene and perpetually striking out with husband/father material, Davenport makes the life-changing decision to try in vitro by convincing one of her friends to donate his sperm. A circle of nurturing friends and family, all suggesting genre stock characters, surrounds the filmmaker with unwavering goodwill and enthusiasm toward her goal. Conversely, there are those in Davenport’s life who display skepticism toward her maternal ambition, even outright rejection in the case of her father, and because of the film’s superficiality they function more as antagonists. When the final outcome reveals a stable vision of single motherhood, Davenport and her son look down on the naysayers as they sit on the pedestal of “I Told Ya So.”