GFF21 Young Selectors - Sweetheart Programme Notes


NB: This article contains spoilers for Sweetheart and is best read after watching the film.

Like many coming-of-age films, Sweetheart is a love story. But, for AJ, the love she finds is not what she expected. This film did a great job of avoiding the all too familiar tropes that are associated with a teenage love-story. There wasn’t a completely happy ending, AJ didn’t find true love with Isla, but what she did find was a newly reformed love for her family.

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To me, the main love story in Sweetheart is that of AJ and her mother, Tina. These relationships, often underrepresented in coming-of-age films, tend to be put to the side in favour of a father-son dynamic. Sweetheart alters this paradigm and shifts the focus onto the tumultuous but poignant journey of a teenage girl and her mother.

AJ and Tina begin the film with what seems to be the remnants of a once close relationship, but AJ has been driven away by her mother’s constant comparisons to her older sister. As mentioned in the film, AJ is potentially acting out because she misses her father. Throughout the events of the film, the wedge between them is driven further until tensions bubble over.

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After the night of the disco, and having mended her other broken relationships, AJ returns to the caravan and finds her mother. Here, they both face the issues separating them and accept each other again. Sweetheart offers a closer look into the complexities of the relationship between mother and daughter, and it does so in a powerful and moving manner.

Sweetheart presents a realistic, modern-day perspective on the family dynamic, straying away from the Simpsons-esque nuclear family. One of this film’s triumphs is its character arcs of not just the protagonist, but of the entire family.  AJ and her sister Lucy start this film with a good deal of disdain between them. Lucy takes on almost a mother-like role over AJ and treats her as simply a ‘moody teenager.’  Their relationship is fairly tumultuous throughout the film, with constant passive-aggressive comments from Lucy. As AJ’s other personal relationships begin to break down throughout the film, she finds comfort within her sister.

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Lucy’s boyfriend Steve acts as an anchor to both AJ and Lucy. Throughout the film he seems to be the most understanding of AJ and perhaps what she is going through. He is the first one to call her AJ instead of April and it seems he is the only adult that AJ feels comfortable around. Tina is having problems with AJ’s father and this could have lead to AJ seeking a role model or perhaps even a father figure. A role that she thinks Steve could fill. This creates a close bond between the two and it’s refreshing to see this kind of relationship develop on screen.

To reiterate, I do believe this is a love story, but it is a family love story. The film explores many issues that young people face today and it does so in a grounded, humorous way. Sweetheart shows the importance of family love and asks you to consider the balance between romantic love and platonic love.

Flynn Smith, GFF Young Selector

Glasgow Film Festival 2021


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