Trigger Warning: Mentions Emotional Abuse and Manipulation

My roommate and I had an all day brunch. We made french fries and some dubious rum punch and sat to binge-watch telly. We ended the night with a Lifetime movie. I know, you’re rolling your eyes, but Lifetime movies can be cathartic, and are mindless for two hungover ladies. However, this one made me think (more than my headache wanted me to). It’s called High School Lover. Honestly, we thought we were getting into James Franco being a pedophile, but it was so much more. For starters, Franco isn’t the pedo but a good father. The story revolves around an actor and his newest conquest, a 17 year old in high school. The movie is well done for Lifetime, though very quick to escalate which didn’t allow a lot of character development, but that’s to be expected in “made for tv.” To be honest I don’t think the movie needed to revolve around a minor seeing someone 10 years her senior, that factor (in my opinion) was definitely to draw curious eyes (which worked). What the movie truly portrayed, and portrayed well, was controlling relationships.

If you actually want to watch this movie stop reading as some spoilers are coming.

Christian, 26, an actor, falls hard for Kelley, 17. He knows she’s 17, and still wants to see her (which bothered me from the get go). Throughout their relationship you see signs of him exerting control over her, from asking where she is all the time, telling her to skip school to see him, inserting himself into her life, etc. Because the movie was short the controlling side of him was very apparent and his toxicity was potent and obvious. However, Lifetime did a good job of highlighting how people manipulate and control others. I do wish Lifetime had written this about someone Christian’s age to show how these relationships happen to everyone, not just innocent, nubile 17 year olds.

What I liked most about this movie was simply the spotlight it was giving to emotional abuse and manipulation. Many people forget this is a kind of abuse, and oftentimes it is much worse than physical abuse.

It was a little difficult to watch this movie as every time I noticed his controlling behavior, even just hints at the beginning, I was sweating in my seat. I’ll never forget how I felt when I allowed myself to fall prey to another person’s manipulation. Everything you do causes you anxiety, and what starts out as a cute, “I need you now,” rapidly becomes a terrifying, “I need you NOW.”

These relationships are scary because they are so hard to identify and even harder to end. I have had someone threaten to commit suicide if I left him. That same person got control of my phone and blocked all my friends from being able to contact me. Takes the turn on out of, “I can’t live without you.”

I don’t know what the point of this post is. Seeing this movie might not have been smart for the headspace I’m in. A lot of memories resurfaced. I guess, I just want to say, look out for your friends. They may not thank you in the moment, but if something feels weird, say something.


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