A very British love story, sweet and heartfelt and set on a holiday park, Sweetheart may not break any new ground but remains a charming first-love story with a grounded Sapphic twist. Nell Barlow is AJ, a socially awkward, environmentally committed teenager struggling to decipher who she is and navigate her family life. She has been dragged along on a family holiday with her mum (the excellent Jo Hartley), younger sister (Tabitha Byron) and heavily pregnant older sister plus partner (Loki’s Sophia Di Martino and Samuel Anderson).
The fractured family dynamics are winningly portrayed: the mother who, while enforcing a good time, is unsure of how to deal with her sullen daughter as the bossy older daughter is high maintenance for her calm and collected partner. AJ no longer wants to be called April, her given name, and is out as a lesbian – but has no experience. When Ella-Rae Smith’s lifeguard appears to take an interest in her, she is unsure how to proceed and unable to believe anyone could like her for the angsty, bucket hat-wearing person she is.
The holiday park shenanigans, portacabin accommodation, blustery weather, magicians and hormonal teen workforce are all excellently drawn by writer/director Morrison with lived-in experience. Barlow excels as AJ – completely understandable in her teenage years, dealing with her father walking out as well as her burgeoning sexuality and self-loathing. Hartley’s character is textured and nuanced, and makes the film about the complexities between mothers and daughters as well as first loves. Excellently acted, this is a holiday romance to savour: funny, truthful and moving.
Dir: Marley Morrison (15, 102 mins)
In cinemas from Fri 24 Sept
words KEIRON SELF photos CHLOE SHEPPARD
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