Review: 'Sweetheart' is Sweet, Funny, and Familiar in All the Right Ways

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 12, 2021

'Sweetheart'  (Source:Reeling)

Throw aside any expectations that Marly Morrison's "Sweetheart" will be an aching Gen Z teen zeitgeist movie, and embrace the fact that it belongs to the classic British genre of "sexually awkward teen meets nightmare seaside family holiday." Go with it, because that is what makes its humiliating inevitability so sweet.

April Jane — or AJ (Nell Barlow), as she prefers to be known — is smart enough to provide three indisputable proof points that the world is not flat at the drop of her floppy hat. However, she still has enough teen insecurity to think she needs exaggeration to make herself seem more interesting. Sullenly hiding in a security blanket of baggy clothes, she gets dragged to the seaside for a short break where family fun is mandated by mum.

AJ is just hitting the hump where her family have got their head around her being gay but have not yet accepted she won't become a Portia de Rossi/Jodie Foster femme with a cute haircut and an immaculate lip. AJ herself does not know who she is becoming, and proves it by sabotaging every opportunity she has to meet the girl of her dreams. The girl in question is Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), who is lithe and lovely. With all the expected attributes of an on-screen female lifeguard, Isla puts the babe in Baywatch.

As it's a movie about British people — everyone, including mum — getting way too drunk. It leads to truths being told, secrets being revealed, and passions being released. Also, shame, liberation, and hangovers should teach lessons, but never do.

The film is sweet, funny, and familiar in a good way, bringing back all the awkward horrors of teen angst with fondness. If you don't manage to learn its central lesson about being yourself, at least remember the three reasons why the earth cannot be flat. It's important.

"Sweetheart" is screening at Seattle Queer Film Festival, OUTshine Fort Lauderdale, and NewFest NYC

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.