FANTASIA FEST 2021 REVIEW! Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (Zhanym, ty ne poverish) is a genre-bending title from Kazakhstan. The film veers wildly from caustic barbs, absurd slapstick, action, and truly tense moments scene from to scene. Theoretically, all this should clash quite severely with each other, delivering whiplash to the audience. But writers Zhandos Aibassov, Daniyar Soltanbayev, Il’yas Toleu, Anuar Turizhigitov, Alisher Utev, and Yernar Nurgaliyev, who also directs, manage to seamlessly integrate all these disparate threads and genres to form an entertaining and unique whole. Of course, the brilliant cast helps a lot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The horror-comedy-thriller begins with Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) and his very pregnant wife, Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva), bickering constantly. She is on his case about every little thing, no matter if he can control it or not. Looking for a brief respite, Dastan calls his friends, Arman (Azamat Marklenov) and Murat (Erlan Primbetov), for a fishing trip. They are confused as they haven’t heard from him since shortly after he got married, and none of them really know how to fish. Nonetheless, they are pleased to be hanging out with their friend.
As the trio gets settled and prepares their boat, just upriver, some ineffectual gangsters take out a man from the trunk of the car. He pleads with them and agrees to take them to their “horses and money.” Well, one thing leads to another, and the man gets shot… and wouldn’t you know it, Dastan, Arman, and Murat witness it. So now, the gangsters are after the three friends.
“…the gangsters are after the three friends…[and a] man with only one good eye shows up intending to kill the gangsters.”
But wait! Another player has emerged! A very buff, seemingly faster-than-light man with only one good eye shows up intending to kill the gangsters. Who survives? Who dies? Will Dastan make it back before his wife gives birth?
Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on in Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It, but it never gets too hard to follow. The six writers ensure each character has both a distinct personality and a clear motivation throughout. This means that while viewers won’t root for everyone, they can at least understand and relate to them all to varying degrees. It is quite refreshing to witness, and the cast gamely stamps their idiosyncrasies onto the already absurd roles, ensuring even more memorable moments and outstanding one-liners. Again, this should be tonally confusing, but somehow the comedy enhances the horror, which is elevated by the action, which hammers home the gravity of everything happening.
While the screenplay does a lot of the heavy lifting, do not think that for one minute that Nurgaliyev is resting on his laurels as a director. The film is chock full of gorgeous imagery as the director of photography, Azamat Dulatov, lovingly captures the beautiful natural landscapes. The pacing is also top-notch, as the film’s 84 minutes breeze by in a pure burst of energetic fun.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is an absolute crowd-pleaser. The cast is excellent, the direction flawless, and the screenplay efficiently and effectively establishes the story and its characters. Most importantly, the genre clashing actually works, making for an exciting, scary, and funny ride, with a rather terrific ending. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this review and go watch the film as soon as possible.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…an absolute crowd-pleaser."