Sweetheart fights real and symbolic monsters with minimal means but great effort.
Sweetheart is a fantasy survival horror and a creature feature with a badass heroine. It’s a very minimalistic film that focuses on just one main character and is set at only one location. The strength of the film lies with a strong performance of Kiersey Clemons and her solo scenes, while the monster is cause for a tensed atmosphere.
Jennifer washes up at a deserted beach of a small island after their boat sank. Next to her lies her friend Brad who shortly after dies from a deep wound. All alone she goes investigating the island and discovers some graves of a family that probably also have lived there after a shipwreck. But Jennifer is not alone. At night a sea creature roams the island looking for her.
Why you should watch it
The beginning of the film is very impressive. Jennifer is all alone and has to fend for herself, trying to survive. She proves to have some survival skills that she uses as a real MacGyver. The discovery of a monster that roams the island, a mysterious black hole at the bottom of the ocean near the island, and the intelligence of the creature all make it an even more terrifying experience. How she handles the death of her friend, her attempts at keeping hidden from the creature are the most gripping parts of the movie.
But it also shows some holes in the plot that aren’t that well resolved. For example, why does a sea creature roam an island. An island where nobody else lives, where we see nor hear other animals. Why has he sniffed out the buried corpse of Brad but left the other graves alone. Why doesn’t Jenn go to the other side of the island to hopefully avoid the sea creature. The minimalist approach of the film could have addressed these issues a bit more to make it more believable.
When her boyfriend Lucas and their friend Mia also reach the island on a rubber boat, we learn more about Jenn but the characters of both Mia and Lucas are too flat and one dimensional and only function as a way to define Jenn’s character even more. Jenn doesn’t exactly belong with their group of friends. Probably Jenn met this group of rich kids and tries desperately to fit in by lying, and twisting the truth a bit.
But they see through her, or think they do, and worse they think that she is mooching off them and Lucas treats her like something he owns. They don’t believe her when she says there’s a monster on the island, they think she is lying again to hide her vulnerability. Lucas even tries to sooth her by repeatedly calling her sweetheart, not an endearing therm but a demeaning one.
Though their conversations are too cliched, it does point out that Jenn’s survival skills come in handy at a deserted island to take it up with a real monster. A monster that not only has a real form to fight, but also represents the monsters Jenn has to deal with in real life. Everybody underestimates her, keeping her down, but now it’s Jenn’s chance to once and for all beat this monster, real and metaphorically.
We don’t get to see much of the sea creature, for he only comes out at night, but the glimpses we do get, show us a well-made creature, though not that original. But it doesn’t have to be. The metaphorical monsters Jenn has to fight are sadly also a cliche which means it’s all too common.
Sweetheart is a minimalistic film that works best at the beginning, with no dialogue just Jenn trying to survive.
My favorite part
The beginning was a tensed and mysterious start. The first glimpse of the monster, Jenn hiding in a tree trunk, watching him dig up Brad was probably the most horrific scene of the film.
The second part felt like it didn’t belong in the film. The two others were obtrusive and mere functional. While the performance of Kiersey stayed very consistent and she carried the film.
The third part, her battle with the sea creature can be seen real and literally or symbolical, freeing herself from the oppressive monsters that keep her down and she has to fight for herself which she proves she can. Although there’s also something to say for the fact that Jenn is trespassing on the creature’s territory, which makes the metaphor fall short. The trespassing does not apply to the real world, where a certain standard of life shouldn’t be the prerogative of just one kind of people.
It’s a simple film with a great start, and when you focus on what the film is about and is trying to say, it’s a good effort.
Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★☆☆
Cast and crew
Sweetheart is directed and written by J.D. Dillard and cowritten by Alex Hyner and Alex Theurer. It stars Kiersey Clemons (Jenn), Emory Cohen (Lucas) and Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Mia).
Duration: 82 minutes. Music: Charles Scott IV. Cinematography: Stefan Duscio. Edited by: Gina Hirsch. Produced by: Jason Blum, J.D. Dillard Bill Karesh, Alex Hyner, Alex Theurer. Production company: Blumhouse Production. Distributed by: Universal Pictures.