FILM REVIEW: Sweetheart

Brian Butler September 30, 2021

Teenage holiday romances are the stuff of many an angst-laden novel or film. Marley Morrison’s film Sweetheart gives it an interesting twist as the two would-be lovers, feeling their way awkwardly into each other’s arms are Isla, the female lifeguard and grumpy reluctant holiday-maker April, who insists on wearing boy’s clothes and being called AJ.

The film is overlaid with a typically British dark comedic flavour, and it certainly reminded me of family holidays I didn’t want to be on in my adolescence. What’s great is that AJ’s Lesbianism is never an issue for her well-meaning but struggling mother Tina ( Jo Hartley ), nor her older sister Lucy ( Sophia Di Martino) or Lucy’s  fireman boyfriend Steve ( Samuel Anderson).

If Isla has an outer beauty, AJ has an inner warmth , caring as she does about the environment and the future of the planet. Nell Barlow pitches her portrayal of AJ just right and though she has selfish and ungrateful streaks, we’re constantly still wanting her to be happy. Ella-Rae Smith as Isla is as unsure about her sexuality as AJ and it makes for both tension and humour.

The densely-packed soundtrack has songs which strongly point up the storyline and the characters’ moods.  One slight gripe is that the storyline is maybe a bit light  in its development and the film could have been edited down to 60-75 minutes, creating a better emotional and dramatic arc. But it’s beautifully photographed and sympathetically acted throughout. And as AJ and Tina tell each other: “ I’m ok mum “ – “ I know you are”. And they’re right.

The film is made by Film London, BBC Films, the BFI and Hazey Jane Films and distributed by Peccadillo Pictures – it’s in cinemas now .