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Film Review: Sweetheart by student Diya Vaya

Diya Viya, BA (Hons) Film and Moving Image Production student reviews Sweetheart, a coming-of age film by Marley Morrison at Norwich Film Festival.

Sweetheart follows AJ, a socially awkward teenager, as she’s dragged into what she thought would be a boring holiday — but turns out to be a pivotal experience in understanding her identity. Her self-realisation is catalysed by a loving lifeguard named Isla.

The film is narrated through an internal monologue in the main characters head, enchaining the viewing experience. 

What makes the film feel so familiar?

Was it the film’s powerful ability to bridge a connection to its audience by creating a main character which so many young adults can identify with?

The main character battles with controversies faced in our world today. AJ or ‘April’ as her mother prefers, is a teenager whose sense of self is being butchered by existing stereotypes and ignorance “You can be gay, and you know, look like a girl” says her mum in a heated argument because of her choice of fashion.

This, along with other lines in the film successfully addresses the linear perception of women, more specifically LGBTQ+ women in society. 

AJ is facing a major identity crisis: “sometimes I don’t even know who I am”. This crisis is amplified when she goes for a party and feels like the black sheep.

The feeling of alienation is a human condition we are all familiar with, especially one more prominent as we enter our first year of university. Thus, we find the parts of ourselves that feel lost, mis-identified, alienated, and unheard in AJ.

The film allows the viewers to re-live their most emotionally painful conditions; however, this time have a happy ending. The film brings out the silver lining in ‘finding yourself’ and experiencing feelings of discomfort in the process.

This is represented in the visuals, employing heavy use of the colour purple, which in the film world symbolises mystery, independence, and magic, thus reminding us to embrace our uncertainty and our quirks.  

Despite believing the film feels familiar due to its success in creating a world the audience can relate to, I thought it also felt familiar as it played into almost all character stereotypes.

The teenager is grouchy and ungrateful, feeling like the world is against her, ignoring all that is good, she loves science and that automatically MUST mean she feels out of a place in a party and has no experience with drugs, whatsoever. In fact, what does she do at the party? Argue why the earth is not flat. Because you can’t love science and know how to party, right? 

Continuing to play into beauty stereotypes, in comparison to Isla who ticks all the boxes of beauty standards in the male gaze, AJ is insecure about her appearance and her identity. Isla’s beauty acts as validation in the movie, for AJ to be more confident in her skin.

Why can’t we for once have a character who does not fit the clichéd beauty standards, and still be comfortable in their own skin? Why must all our characters insecurities continue to conform to what society expects us to apologies for.  And so, maybe Sweetheart is a movie we can all relate to because we are taught, we should.

Norwich Film Festival runs until 21 November for in person viewing and all films are available to watch online until 30 November.