BFI Flare: Sweetheart

Family arriving at the campsite

Being a teenager is never easy. Stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood, with your body undergoing a number of unseen and seen changes. It can all be extremely confusing. Especially, with peer pressure, parental expectations and the almost constant cultural assault on adolescents. When you’re different, or at least feel different, it can become isolating. This is the case in Marley Morrison’s new film, Sweetheart.

AJ (Nell Barlow), don’t call her April, is a solitary and socially awkward 17-year-old. Her mother, Tina (Jo Hartley), has decided to drag the family to the seaside before her older sister (Sophia Di Martino) gives birth. AJ would rather be anywhere else and, whilst she loved going there as a child, finds it boring and uncool. However, when she meets Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), who works on the campsite, suddenly the holiday opens up a number of exciting possibilities.

Sweetheart is a warm-hearted and tender exploration of young sexuality and the bonds which draw families together (but also pull them apart). Whilst the territory is familiar, the cast is so good and the writing so natural, that it’s hard not to like it. Much of this is thanks to the performance of Barlow, who superbly balances all the fragilities and complexities of youth. Sweetheart is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

Sweetheart screens at BFI Flare.

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