Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Sweetheart

Sweetheart *** ½ / *****
Directed by: J.D. Dillard.
Written by: J.D. Dillard & Alex Hyner & Alex Theurer.
Starring: Kiersey Clemons (Jenn), Emory Cohen (Lucas), Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Mia).
As a low budget creature feature with practical effects, Sweetheart is a pretty brutally efficient film – getting in and out in 80 minutes or so. It relies heavily on lead Kiersey Clemons – the talented young actress who was so good in Hearts Beat Loud last year and her breakthrough role Dope (and hell, I liked her just fine in Rent: Live earlier this year) – who spends most of the film by herself, until she realizes she isn’t alone at all. And even when rescue – or at least escape – seems within reach, she realizes she was better off by herself.
The first act of Sweetheart is basically CastAway. We see Jenn (Clemons) washing up on shore on a beautiful tropical island – alongside her friend, who is bleeding badly, and will die before he can say a word. It quickly becomes clear that no one else lives on this island – but some people used to. There are an old cooler, and other supplies, left behind – with no real sign of where they went. Jenn quickly figures out that she can survive there – she can build fire, there is coconuts that provide water, she’s able to catch fish, etc. She may be there a while – but she can survive there if need be. And then, she gets a glimpse of something in the water and realizes she isn’t alone.
I won’t talk much about the creature – except to say that it only comes out at night, and is comfortable in both the water and on land. He is constantly hungry – and will drag its food back into the ocean (there is a hole in the floor that she finds). Jenn has to find some way to survive the creature’s nightly visits – and its kind of refreshing that everything Jenn does feels realistic. She doesn’t become a superhero in her strength, and she doesn’t become MacGyver, creating elaborate booby traps, etc. What she does makes sense for a city girl on an island for the first time.
The third act introduces two other characters – and a raft – with the arrival of Jenn’s boyfriend Lucas (Emory Cohen) and her friend Mia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) – and we finally find out the how’s and whys of their predicament. It also explains the title, as Lucas calls sweetheart in the condescending tone that every woman will recognize from their relationships with bad boyfriends. It helps to deepen the themes of the film a little bit more – making the film more than a creature feature, but something about the frustration women feel when they are not believed.
The film was directed by J.D. Dillard, who does a good job with what must have been not a lot a money. Sure, it’s a cheat to have the monster only come out at night (or be seen underwater) which makes it easier to hide it – but it works remarkably well. You really don’t get a good look at it until fairly late in the game. It’s a fairly simple movie in many ways – but it’s a really effective one – keeping you glued to your seat to the end. This is a Bughouse film – and a better one than most of their horror films – and I wish it was getting more a theatrical release than it does – but it makes sense I guess. It is a slow burn – but a wonderful and surprising one.

1 comment:

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