Sweetheart (2019) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Sweetheart, released last year to home video to extremely good reviews from critics (95% positive by critics at Rottentomatoes!) versus a much cooler reception by audiences (52%, Rottentomatoes again), came on my radar around the time it was originally released and I’ve been curious to see it since. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The movie is quite simple: Jenn (Kiersey Clemons, quite good) awakens on a beautiful island shore. She wears a life vest and realizes nearby is Brad (Benedict Samuel), a fellow castaway. He’s in bad shape, though. At some point his body slammed into coral and he’s got a piece of the jagged material sticking out of his stomach.

Soon, Brad dies (this all happens within the first few minutes of the film, so rest easy, I’m not spoiling much), and Jenn is left alone on the island.

She explores and assesses her situation and, come night, realizes the island is the hunting grounds for a fierce monster.

Will Jenn survive?

After seeing Sweetheart, I was curious to read some reviews and one of the more astute ones note the film is like a cross between Predator and Castaway.

Not a bad comparison, but the film’s DNA lies more distant than that, all the way to creature feature movies like the original Thing From Another World and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

The movie is pretty bare bones, but I say this in a good way. There is very little fat and the plot moves forward. When all is said and done -and without spoiling too much- we have a total of four “speaking” roles but it is Jenn who takes up the majority of the screen time and she does make for an engaging hero, even if she may not be quite as resourceful and gutsy as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien films.

However, once all was said and done I felt there were a couple of head-scratching moments in the film that bear scrutiny. I’ll get to them in a moment as they do relate to SPOILERS.

So… thumbs up or down?

I recommend the film but bear in mind along with the fact that this is a pretty straightforward film it also does not reinvent the wheel. It’s well done, at times very suspenseful and the main protagonist is engaging and worth rooting for but Sweetheart is not a terribly original or searing presentation.

It’s a very good film, but not quite a great one.

Now then…

SPOILERS!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Still there?

Hope you know what you’re doing…

Anyway, there were two things presented in Sweetheart -three if we count the movie’s title, which is explained in the course of the film but… come on! They could have come up with something more interesting, no?!- that bugged me.

The first one occurs when Jenn is attacked by the creature. She sustains a gash in her leg but that wound, magically, seems to disappear immediately afterwards and through to the end of the film. An odd thing, a very odd thing, to have happen in a film that seems to be otherwise very well thought out.

It makes me wonder if maybe they re-arranged certain scenes and her injury originally happened later in the story -like toward the very end- but was moved to earlier to create some sense of tension.

The second thing involves even more SPOILERS so, again, if you don’t want to be SPOILED…

All right then…

Through the course of the film Jenn encounters others who were in the ship she was in. Not many, granted, but she arrives with one survivor who dies quickly. She later finds the half-eaten body of another and then toward the later half of the film she sees a lifeboat and swims to it. She finds two people, a man and a woman, who have also survived the wreck.

Once they make it to shore, we realize they know each other. The man, Lucas (Emory Cohen), is her boyfriend and calls her “Sweetheart” (hence the movie’s title). Their relationship, we infer, was on the rocks even before the ship expedition. Both Brad and the woman, Mia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), are elated to have reached shore but, understandably, have a hard time believing Jenn when she tells them a monster stalks the island.

This eventually leads to a confrontation between the two against Jenn, but before that Jenn borrows Lucas’ knife and notices blood on it.

Later on, when Jenn gets into the lifeboat, she notices bloodstains in it.

There is a clear implication that Lucas and Mia killed someone with that knife and did so in the lifeboat. My best guess is they killed the half-eaten man Jenn found before Lucas and Mia showed up.

It’s an interesting element, that Jenn may not only have to worry about the creature but also Lucas and Mia maybe being killers, but that element is shown -both with the blood stained knife and the blood within the lifeboat!- but absolutely nothing more is made of it.

As with Jenn’s wound, I wonder if maybe either they filmed more regarding this and ultimately discarded it or they had it in the script, filmed it, but decided to not bother with any further explanations.

For a film that is so razor sharp, though, its weird to have this dangling and ultimately unresolved plot element.

Weird stuff.

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