Glasgow Film Festival 2021: Sweetheart Review

With the next film I chose to see at this years Glasgow Film Festival, I wanted more of a straight up comedy and looking through what was on offer, this film stood out. This looked like a good little British comedy, and the film itself is a good bit of entertainment.

The film follows April, who prefers to be known as AJ, a heavily environmentally conscious teenager as she’s dragged to a British caravan holiday resort by her family. Amid the ongoing tension between AJ and her family, she finds herself drawn to Isla, one of the lifeguards at the site, soon finding herself falling in love with Isla. The film focuses on the ongoing difficulties AJ has with her family and the issues she has with expressing her feelings towards Isla. The family drama works in the film as you understand the issues that both sides have, with AJ feeling constrained and forced into a position that she does not want to be in, to the point where her mum repacks her suitcase whilst for AJ’s mum Tina, you know that there is something that has happened to create a rift between her and her daughter, not helped by AJ’s dad no longer being in the picture. Whilst Tina does come across as overly critical, it all comes from a real place and I found the relationship the two have to be believable. The romance element as well I found believable, with it being suitably awkward at the start and we see how past issues with AJ have led to her being uncomfortable around this, for the fear of being rejected. I also found the way AJ views her sexuality in relation to her family to be well handled, showing issues coming from AJ’s own personal insecurities and how she lets those insecurities latch themselves to her views on her family. I also appreciate how the film presents the aesthetic of this kind of holiday resort. I’ve been to a few of these in the past when I was younger and the film nails pretty much every aspect of it.

The performances as a whole I found to be strong. Nell Barlow as AJ brings the right level of disaffection to AJ to make the character believable. There’s the right level of awkwardness when AJ meets Isla and her friends for the first time at the party and the chemistry that Barlow has with Ella-Rae Smith makes the romance between the two really believable. I also like that Barlow is willing to show AJ’s more negative side, but showing the root behind all of the issues she has, making her a sympathetic character. Ella-Rae Smith as Isla provides a good contrast with Barlow, whilst also showing how issues related to how she is perceived impact on her emotionally. Jo Hartley as Tina shows the concerned mother side of the character well and how she is hiding a lot of the pain she is feeling, which impacts negatively upon her relationship with AJ. It’s at the end of the film where Hartley brings across the best side of the performance, showing how there are a lot of similarities between AJ and Tina. Other solid performances come in from Samuel Anderson and Sophia Di Martino, adding to the overall vibe of the film.

On the whole, I found Sweetheart to be a really endearing and funny coming of age film. There are so many recognisable elements in the film that make it pretty universal and the way the film explores the central character of AJ makes it a compelling film. Sure there are some points in the third act where it gets a bit predictable, but overall this is a really enjoyable film.

My Rating: 4/5

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