Sundance 2019: Sweetheart Review – Believe Women (About Deserted Island Monsters)


Kiersey Clemons IS Sweetheart, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sweetheart is already my kind of movie. It’s a survival movie where the characters have to find resources. There’s also a monster menace and an underlying theme of the struggle women face to be believed.

Jen (Kiersey Clemons) washes ashore with Brad after an accident. She can’t save Brad but she finds some supplies from previous survivors and learns to find water and spear fish. She also learns there is a monster on the island.

The survival scenes are great. Jen has a well earned sense of accomplishment when she catches a fish. She tries to make a flotation device unsuccessfully, confirming she’s trapped there, and sees bloody signs that she’s not alone.

Sweetheart does a good job not showing the monster too much. You get glimpses at night, and many shots are entirely from Jen’s perspective in hiding places with the monster outside. The best is when her signal flare ends up illuminating the creature.

When two more survivors wash ashore that’s more fresh meat from the monster. It also reveals that Sweetheart is Lucas (Emory Cohen)’s condescending name for Jen when he doesn’t listen to her. It’s all hearsay but what we learn is whatever Jen has said before has either rightly or wrongly been disbelieved.

So now she has to convince them of something extraordinary that no rational person would ever believe. They ask her for proof. What proof could she possibly have if a monster without getting herself killed? The monster becomes a metaphor for anything women are unreasonably asked to prove. Proof is for a court of law. Real life is more complicated. It’s okay to believe someone based on good faith. Of course it’s also okay to recognize someone is unreliable but taken at face value, Jen has been in a condescending world her whole life.

The monster is also a monster. It’s nice and vicious and bloody when it attacks. Often you just hear it’s growls which are scary enough.

Sweetheart does everything right creating tension, scares and misdirects. It even does Cast Away right by forcing Clemons to spend most of the movie not talking to anyone until the other survivors show up. They don’t cheat and give her a volleyball to talk to and she carries the movie so well on her own, no human or creature co-star can steal the movie away from her.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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