Marley Morrison (director)
24 September 2021 (released)
20 September 2021
Oh, look at the cows, or similar words, shouts out mum Tina (Jo Hartley) to a disinterested April (Nell Barlow) who narrates the film and younger sister Dayna (Tabitha Byron) as they drive down to a holiday camp for their holidays with older sister Lucy (Sophia Di Martino) and partner Steve (Samuel Anderson). It’s going to be the last one of this type as Lucy is expecting their first child and April has other ideas for the future. It’s a sparky opening that sets up the tone film.
April is really not that interested in the holiday with everyone other than Steve getting on her nerves - he’s the only one that likes her shortening her name to AJ, her orange sunglasses and hat get up. Which is in total contrast with the gear that her mother has packed for her; just another point of conflict as mum learns she doesn’t want to back to school and wants some credit for going out of her way to accept that April is gay.
The family keep it together long enough for them to go to the pool where April spots lifeguard Isla (Ella-Rae Smith) and is immediately taken by her. A slightly awkward introduction leads to an invitation to a party where she experiments with booze and drugs as well as putting a flat earther’s theories to the sword in a way that suggests her schooling hasn’t gone to waste. Her boozy night inevitably leads to a confrontation with her mother and family.
Sweetheart is a delight. Writer and director Marley Morrison has teased out some cracking and touching performances from the cast in particular Barlow and Hartley who just don’t see eye to eye on hardly anything other than their differences. But this is not a dysfunctional family just one that is going through changes: Tina tries hard to understand April even if it comes over very clumsy. April for her part is just looking to go forward and do her own thing. Yet despite the rows there is deep love between them which feels totally natural.
It’s a familiar coming of age story all told so not much of this will come as a surprise with the inevitable heartbreaks, misunderstandings and then making up. That does it no harm at all as I suspect many will be familiar with April’s awkward approaches towards Isla and her telling a few porkies to get in with Isla’s circle of friends. The scenes between Ella-Rae Smith and Nell Barlow are beautifully handled as they get on know each other through humour and affection, the former gentle and telling rather than great belly laughs.
The one niggle is that parts of the soundtrack overwhelmed what was going on without adding anything. It is however a small and personal point.
Sweetheart - released in cinemas 24th September