Top of the Docs #12 – Yung Lean Please Be My Yung Love

Yung Lean is many things. Rapper, songwriter, producer, he’s a man of many talents. However, in Julia Mellen’s Yung Lean Please Be My Yung Love, he is elevated above all of that. He becomes simply a symbol, an outlet for emotion. The film, only fifteen minutes long, shows Mellen imagining a perfect date with the rapper, whose music she is unaware of and who she has never met. Mellen’s film explores romantic desire, our wants, and how fantasy allows us to develop these wants into something that is beautiful but ultimately unattainable.

What first hooked me into Yung Lean Please Be My Yung Love was Mellen’s frankness. The film is made in a casual way that is reminiscent at first of a YouTube video. When her mic or camera is dying, we see her rush to change the battery. This puts the viewer at ease. This is no heady interrogation of desire, what it means to yearn, or celebrity culture. This is simply fantasy put to film. As Mellen begins to describe the date, we drift over computer generated imaginings of locations within Mellen’s fantasy, vaguely illustrating it as though in a dream.

In her copy for Kinodot, Mellen describes the film as “a space for me to exercise my pathetic romantic fantasy with someone I don’t know who will never see it, but I’m sure is subject to art-school-girl fantasies worldwide.” That’s what this film is. This is a documentary that, rather than focusing on documenting anything specific, creates a space for discussion with the film then acting as a document of the creation of the said space. Mellen describes her idea of a perfect date and analyses it, what that means for her, in turn forcing the viewer to question their own desires, wants, and needs.

The casual nature of the film, like the YouTube video format, is also interesting. Various documentary forms have risen into and fallen out of popularity over the years, and this format feels incredibly familiar and comfortable. However, it’s a format that we rarely see on the big screen. It’s difficult to tell if this would be sustainable over the course of a feature length documentary, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t. Therefore, Mellen has, as an aside from the content of the film, canonised the YouTube format of video into documentary cinema. This is something that is vitally necessary given the propensity of these videos online versus their discussion in terms of value as documentaries/cultural artefacts.

Yung Lean Please Be My Yung Love is an anti-documentary, one about fantasy and how to grapple with your own imaginings. Mellen creates a film that feels like hanging out with your friends and having goofy discussions that suddenly become deep. This genre of film all too often feels indulgent, but here it is gentle and creates a film of stunning softness.