Sweetheart: BFI Flare Film Review

Sweetheart

I always try to get tickets to a couple of films during the BFI Flare festival – a film festival that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community – because you can usually find some gems and the lovely Sweetheart certainly didn’t disappoint.

The film follows April Jane (Nell Barlow) – or AJ as she now likes to be called – as she goes on holiday with her family to their usual coastal caravan park in Dorset. She’s a socially awkward lesbian who has just been suspended from school and rebels against her mum Tina’s (Jo Hartley) insistence that she puts more care into her appearance. She has cut her own hair, wears baggy unflattering clothes, a bucket hat, and oversized red sunglasses, and feels like an outcast inside her own family, which also includes her heavily pregnant sister Lucy (Sophia Di Martino), younger sister Dayna (Tabitha Byron), and Lucy’s caring partner Steve (Samuel Anderson). The holiday gets a little more interesting when AJ meets lifeguard Isla (Ella-Rae Smith) and develops a crush.

Marley Morrison‘s film covers familiar territory and doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to depicting a teenager exploring their sexuality, but that didn’t matter because I loved the script, the characters and the dynamics between them. Sweetheart isn’t just about AJ’s crush but about her building bridges with her family – particularly her mum – and getting that connection back and I actually liked that aspect of the story more, although watching AJ trying to keep up with the older cool holiday workers was fun.

Barlow does a fantastic job considering this is her feature film. AJ begins as a cold, hard, rebellious person and eventually, she opens up and takes down those walls and she navigated that really well. Smith has a captivating onscreen presence and there was more substance to her character than I was expecting, Di Martino’s Lucy starts off as this demanding and constantly unimpressed older sister, Steve is lovely and the nicest to AJ, and Hartley is excellent as the mum – I’m so glad she got a few solo scenes.

Sweetheart is a lovely, heartwarming film that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Set to released later this year

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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