Menu Close

“Sweet Thing” Film Review – Film Critics Program #11

Sweet Thing

2020 | Dir. Alexandre Rockwell | 91 minutes
Film Reviewed by Vinicius Oliveira

Childhood in the movies can be represented in many ways. Either they choose to
portray the clichés, or comedic interactions, or situations that are considered “already seen before”. However, some of them choose to embrace their reality, bringing optics and looks to an impoverished childhood, real and many times unfair but without losing the innocence and the imagination of the protagonists in this journey.

It is exactly from this point-of-view that Alexandre Rockwell presents to us “Sweet
Thing”, an American drama that in 91 minutes takes us on a journey, moving into an
unbridled adventure of pure redemption. Billie (Lana Rockwell) is a sweet teenager
(and an amazing singer) who at a very early age had to take care of her own life,
after seeing her parent’s marriage come to an end. Her brother Nico (Nico Rockwell)
is the representation of all the innocence that is hidden throughout the script. They
live with their father Adam (Will Patton), an alcoholic who is often too ineffectual
compared to his children. He often divides his time between being Santa Claus and
fighting over drinks. The children have a hard relationship with their mother Eve
(Karyn Parsons), who left the family to live out an affair with the violent Beaux (ML
Josepher), which causes even more disruption in the family’s physical and
psychological relationship.

The visual construction of the entire universe in the film is carried out in a curious
manner. The black and white images accompany most of the scenes that receive
some kaleidoscopic aesthetic during the transitions. At times, this element works as a
metaphor for the daily confusion and duality that the children are immersed in. I even
dare to say that the ying-yang metaphor in the choice of black and white images
refers to the duality of both within the narrative. Billie with her strength due to the
responsibility she is submitted to, but at the same time, she has somewhat of a
fragility to her beautiful voice (after all, her name is inspired by the amazing Billie
Holiday) and Nico with his courage and wild protective spirit, but also has a childlike
innocence in wishing for a “Nerf” gun that’d be gifted on Christmas after his letter is
sent to Santa or even when he runs away from a girl who said she was in love with him.

Another commendable metaphor within the whole conception of the “Sweet Thing”
universe is that the moments of joy are represented by colorful scenes and always
framed by an immersive soundtrack that takes the role of the dialogue. A few
seconds painted inside a colorless narrative are enough for us to understand the
main message: “not everything here is always colorful, but when it is, it’s for a little
while” and that’s exactly how this experience is established. Colorful scenes that
show the euphoria of a beach house or the fun in (finally) being close again to their
absent mother or the purity of understanding how the youth of an unknown (and
extremely chaotic) place have fun and search for their own way to “color” their reality.

It’s within this small colorful universe that Malik (Jabari Watkins) is introduced to us: a teenager whose fun is based on misdemeanors and drugs. He also comes from a past of disappointment and abandonment by those who raised him. Malik is the invitation that Billie and Nico couldn’t refuse to venture out in search of freedom. In fact, the kid’s appearance in the scenes can be described as freedom and hope. They are now stealing cars, swimming, singing, and for the first time in their lives,
they are far from alcoholism, abuse, and all that massive pain that they grew up with.

The fact is that the only feeling that remains up to this moment is the movement, the
rush and the almost mystery about reflecting the next steps of our “Goonies”, who
together, have cleared and absorbed all the courage and happiness that they
deserve. The path is treacherous and the “little coup of grace” at the end leaves us
with an orphan-like air. The shock of understanding that all the adventures have now
become memories, melodies are now comfort, and that childhood is just an old
companion of what’s (now) past.

Truth be told folks, the “Sweet Thing” experience is almost a consequence of the
understanding that reality won’t ever be poetic like Billie Holiday or sweet like
childhood, but always colorless like reality.

Sweet Thing is a Fiction Feature Film that streams on GIFF Online now until the end of the Festival on July 25!