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  Sweetheart It Would Be So Nice
Year: 2021
Director: Marley Morrison
Stars: Nell Barlow, Jo Hartley, Ella-Rae Smith, Sophia Di Martino, Samuel Anderson, Tabitha Byron, Steffan Cennyd, William Andrews, Spike Fearn, Anna Antoniades, Celeste De Veazey, Elizabeth Grace Hartley, Davey Hunter Jones, Jack Hamson, Kayleigh Brown
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: AJ (Nell Barlow), or April to her separated mum Tina (Jo Hartley), is a seventeen-year-old in sixth form at school, but not enjoying herself there with nobody to really relate to, so the idea of going to a Dorset caravan park with her family on a holiday fills her with dread. Her mum won't allow her to stay for a week in the house on her own, so she does not have much choice, but as she is driven to their destination with her little sister Dayna (Tabitha Byron) in the back marvelling at the countryside she can see nothing ahead of her but sheer Hell. And that's without factoring in her elder sister Lucy (Sophia Di Martino) who is eight months pregnant and a frequent irritant...

Not helping is that AJ is obsessively courting an outsider status, starting with her lesbianism which she regards as setting her apart from not only her family, but the whole world, as if no teenager has ever been gay before and therefore is the perfect excuse to believe nobody understands her. But Tina understands her, and older viewers may find themselves sympathising with her as she tries to accommodate her daughter but keeps snapping at her as her surly attitude gives no quarter to being nice or even acknowledging Tina wants the best for her, preferring to shut down all attempts at empathy, unless it's AJ's own empathy for the environment.

It should be made clear, Tina and the rest of the clan have no problem with AJ being gay, what they do have a problem with is this relentlessly unfriendly attitude, which frankly as the film depicts it looks like very hard work for both her and all those around her. This could apply to the audience watching the film too, as the narrating girl is so self-centred that many viewers will either want to give her a shake to point out her family are worried about her immersion in negativity and deserve to be given a chance, or just be turned off the teen completely and believe she should be left to stew in her own juices until she has enough experience under her belt to grow up a little more.

Or a lot more, whatever it takes. Sometimes what it takes can be an object of affection, and if that is not going to be her mum or her sisters (the upbeat Steve, played by Samuel Anderson, is Lucy's ever-helpful partner and completes the brood), then how about Isla (Ella-Rae Smith)? Who she? She is a lifeguard at the pool where they are staying, and seemingly everything AJ is not: popular, comfortable in her skin, and open to new experiences. For our bad-tempered heroine, it is love at just about first sight, and when Isla strikes up a chummy conversation and invites her over for a get-together with some other young folks, AJ briefly panics before negotiating with mum to spend a little time away that evening. She has taken it for granted that Isla is straight - but dare she wonder if she is not?

You could see where this was going early, mainly because the gay coming of age movie was steeped in convention and a widely employed genre to explore the gay world, partly to reassure younger viewers and partly because it was quite easy to conjure up when it was a universal experience, whatever your gender, apparently very few wanting to see stories of ageing homosexuals unless they were played by fairly big stars. But you did not begrudge Sweetheart its reliance on cliché because it was very nicely played, and the way that the cast and writer-director Marley Morrison obviously liked their characters, faults and all, encouraged you to feel the same. It could be irritating to watch AJ mess up so badly time and again, seemingly to extend the running time (Morrison's background was in short film), but by the end it was rather sweet, if maybe not hilarious, as everyone got over themselves and tentatively hoped for a brighter future. Music by Toydrum.

[Sweetheart - released in cinemas 24th September 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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