Dragged along by her mum, 17-year-old AJ is determined to not have fun on this family holiday to a caravan park. But when she feels like she’s starting to fall in love with someone working there, she realises it might not be so bad after all.
As a family, we owned a caravan at a holiday park in Wales for a few years. It was fun, having a little holiday home that we could visit every weekend. But as we got older, I wanted to be going to friend’s parties or drama clubs, but the caravan often came first. I outgrew the kid’s clubs and swimming pool, I hated listening to BBC Radio 2 as we drove the long journeys (it’s now my favourite station haha), and when we decided to give it up, it was nice to have the freedom of the weekends back. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re 9 years old, a caravan park is the place to be, but when you’re 17, it can feel like a cheesy nightmare really making me relate to this clever film and see my own life in it.
Promising to be the worst week of character AJ’s life, Sweetheart is writer and director Marley Morrison’s debut feature film, giving us a fresh look at the typical coming-of-age story through orange tinted sunglasses. I fell in love with Morrison’s script, feeling so real and understandable. A mother with three daughters, all with large age gaps between them, and the eldest’s boyfriend all meet to spend a week together in planned calmness because of a pregnancy. The way the different family members interacted felt so true and real. Mums get angry and worried, with sister’s both younger and older at different levels of annoying. The chemistry they had just worked perfectly, helping to tell Morrison’s story fantastically. Being just over an hour and a half in length, we really get to know and understand the people on our screens, trying to guess where they’ll end up. I laughed, I felt angry, I just adored the emotions that this film made me feel. The story wasn’t predictable and looked at topics that every family find difficult to talk about, but I just applaud Morrison again for their brilliant storytelling and creation of worlds and the people in it.
Starring as our favourite socially awkward teen is actor Nell Barlow who instantly stole my heart. Her blunt edge and monotone acting worked perfectly to create this stroppy teenager who we can all relate to. We’ve all been 17 and confused and angry at the world and tried to find our way in it and been on holidays we wished we could escape from. Some of the reasons that teen films like this don’t connect with me is because I find the main character quite arrogant and annoying, but AJ was far from that. She was confused and misunderstood and played by Barlow in a caring manor. I want to hug AJ, I want to be her friend, I am her. This film is the story of everyone feeling attacked by the world and their family and not knowing how to cope with that.
Seeing the film from AJ’s perspective reminds us of the changes that life throws at us when we’re growing up. From love and lust to rule breaking and feeling lost, Sweetheart incredibly sums up what being 17 is like. We’re too old yet too young, but this bright dramatic comedy lets us see that we’re not on our own with those thoughts.