Valentine’s Day may be over, but we’re still feeling the lovey-dovey high after watching Upgraded. The film follows Ana, an aspiring art intern who’s invited on a last-minute work trip to London, where she has a meet cute with a handsome stranger. The streaming hit is def recognized among The Rom-Com Revival, and we can thank director Carlson Young (she/her) for that.

Below, Carlson talks about her dizzying adventure from actor to director, the connection she feels for each character in her movie, and her (v underrated) go-to rom-com.

Upgraded is your second baby in your directorial career. What has the journey been like from actor to director?
Upgraded is indeed my second baby. The journey from actor to director has been a bit like a labyrinth—feeling swallowed into the belly of a dizzying initiation process that took me to a deep place inside of myself and was ultimately trial by fire. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m happy with where I’ve landed. When I’m directing, I feel alive, like I’m using every part of my brain and personal experience to realize a bigger story. Most importantly, I feel like I learn something fairly profound in each project.

Did you find an unexpected connection to any of the characters from the film?
[Warning: Spoilers ahead!] I related to Ana’s character immediately reading the script. I could connect deeply to coming up in an industry that couldn’t give a f*ck about you, but Ana knows it’s her passion, her deepest desire. I have felt like this, too. And this world she’s trying to access has this elusive facade, such a narrow entry point, and as Will says on the plane, has this way of declaring what is and what isn’t valid art. But she keeps going. Her love for the art world is pure. She knows her stuff. She’s ambitious… and a bit naive. I respected Camila [Mendes]’s Ana more and more as we shot the movie, and I felt viscerally her mission of impressing her boss, this fantastical woman played brilliantly and hilariously by Marisa Tomei, who has achieved the perceived impossible—power and respect in the male-dominated art world—while juggling this light-hearted, natural, and energetic romance.

And with Catherine, Lena Olin’s character, there was this godmother wish fulfillment that I once dreamt of stumbling into within my industry. Thank God for the Catherines of the world—those who pop in and lift a young woman like Ana up when they don’t really have to. Catherine is kind to Ana, you know? And Julien, the real artist in the film, played so effortlessly by Anthony Head, has this funny banter with her when they first meet where he sees her right away, her chops, her taste. He embraces her. I loved that. This is a long winded way of saying that I felt every character in Upgraded roaring off the screen, especially when I got to the edit. Camila fiercely carried the emotion of the story with this raw strength and grace while managing to maintain the integrity of the comedy. We had a tremendously creative cast to bring it all to life.

How do you think the viewer might relate to this movie?
My hope is the audience can see pieces of their own life in each of these characters, but it’s fun and light and even surprisingly deep at times. It was important to me to attempt to build in the underlying energy of the three featured women. For me, it was the heart of the film.

What’s next for ya? Any exciting projects you’re working on?
Full steam ahead directing. Next one’s a thriller, then another rom-com, and a horror project I’ve been developing for a while is in there as well. I am so thankful for the work ahead.

There’s no question that rom-coms are back. So, what’s your fave one?
Definitely Moonstruck.

You’ve also dabbled in the horror genre. If you had to choose one to work with forever: romance or horror?
I adore horror. Like acting, it’s one of my first loves. I’m going to go with romance, though, because it feels like more of an unexplored frontier for me. A muscle I’d like to continue to develop.