By the title, you would think Sweetheart is a romantic comedy or a “feel-good” coming of age story. You would be very wrong. It’s the furthest thing from either of these genres.
If I’m being honest, I made this mistake too. Like most movies at Sundance (which is where I happen to be this week), I went into Sweetheart, “blind.” I had no idea what it was about until I was actually watching it. And let me tell you when I started to put together what the story is, I had to completely readjust my thoughts. So enough with the build-up, let’s just get into it.
Sweetheart, by director J.D. Dillard, begins with a recent boat crash, and two survivors Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) and someone we assume is her boatmate, being washed up on a what appears to be a deserted beach. Her boatmate/friend, unfortunately, has been mortally impaled by some kind of sharp coral, and soon succumbs to his wound, leaving Jenn to fend for herself.
After scouting the island for supplies, Jenna finds some things she can use, and evidence that there were people marooned there before her. But her newfound relief is quickly turned to dread when she comes across what looks like graves.
“…mortally impaled by some kind of sharp coral…leaving Jenn to fend for herself.”
A few days after settling in, she discovers that there is something else on the island with her. She soon understands what happened to the people that were there before.
Let me start with this. There are things that I really liked about this movie. Clemons does a fantastic job of making tense moments very believable. For example, the first time she come into contact with this “thing” on the island, we feel every deep breath she takes.
The other thing that made me take notice was, how well the movie’s pacing. It was a slow burn, but it made the truly horrifying moments earned. And what really adds to the credit of the direction is that the whole film takes place in location.
But, with all of that said, there were some things completely took me out of this movie. And the biggest one had to be the addition of new characters that arrived. One who they allude to as being Jenn’s “boyfriend” played by Emory Cohen, and a very annoying “friend” played by Hanna Mangan-Lawrence.
“…Clemons does a fantastic job of making tense moments very believable…”
The acting of these two actors come across as extremely corny, and just bad to the point that it’s literally distracting. And the worst part is, it completely derails Clemons’ performance, which up to this point was terrific. I get that the characters were there to obviously move the story forward, but it just didn’t work.
Would I recommend Sweetheart?
I think that this movie has enough “jump scares,” and interesting visuals to keep most people entertained. Is it the best movie that I’ve seen with “creature in the woods” trope? No. But it’s entertaining enough to get into and leave without feeling you’ve wasted 90 minutes of your life!
Sweetheart (2019) Directed by J.D. Dillard. Written by J.D. Dillard, Alex Hyner, and Alex Theurer. Starring Kiersey Clemons, Emory Cohen, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, and Andrew Crawford.
7 OUT OF 10