Monday, May 10, 2021

A Lonely Island


Even when they're not very good, I will always give a chance to a deserted island set genre film. 

Quick Plot: Jenn, a young and resourceful American, washes up on a deserted island alongside her dying pal Brad. Much like Lost, her new home seems to be lush in coconuts, easily catchable fish, and unidentifiable monsters with a taste for human flesh.

The monster seems to be some sort of giant nocturnal amphibian. It hunts at night and drags its prey back to the water, where a mysterious black hole on the ocean floor awaits its feast.

Jenn is quick to understand the creature's patterns and seems on the right path to hunting it down when she spots a life raft filled with none other than her boyfriend Lucas and pal Mia. The pair have been floating for several days and are eager to enjoy the spoils of what seems like a tropical paradise, with little patience for Jenn's crazy rambling about a sea monster.

Directed by J.D. Dillard, Sweetheart is a beautifully restrained, extremely well-told little tale that seems to have an incredibly disciplined understanding of what it can and should do. It clocks in under 90 minutes and moves quickly, wasting no time on flashbacks or forced exposition

In fact, for a good 2/3rds of its running time Sweetheart doesn't even have any dialog. Why would it, if Jenn is all alone and not (like some people with horror blogs) the kind of person who has arguments with herself. Lead actress Kiersey Clemons is more than up to the task.

The lack of conversation makes the ones we have all the more interesting. Lucas is clearly not the hero here, both in terms of his disappointing survival skills and worse, the fact that he clearly treats his girlfriend like an unwanted child. There's a reason this film is titled Sweetheart, and it all seems to click when you hear Lucas use the term.

Jenn is clearly not as financially well-off as her partner or his friends, the kind of white people who can, you know, take boat trips without a thought for what would happen if a storm blew them off course. Dillard and cowriters Alex Hyner and Alex Theurer's script doesn't overexplain a note, nor does it force confrontation where you simply wouldn't have it. Questions go unanswered because you know what? If the sun was setting in an hour, I might not take the time to ask my asshole boyfriend if he murdered his boat captain pal.

My point is, Sweetheart makes some excellent, smart decisions at every step. This is good stuff.

High Points
Teasing a monster is never easy, since once you show it, you might lose the tension you've been working so hard to weave. Sweetheart handles this well, dropping plenty of hints as to what it's capable of but not pushing the final reveal past what would physically be possible.

Low Points
I appreciate a film putting me in the visual point of view of its characters, but sometimes, you just want to, you know, SEE things

Lessons Learned
Pack every suitcase as if it might be the only source of your necessities. You just never know

Sweetheart is streaming on Netflix, and it's easily one of Blumhouse's better non-theatrical productions. I thoroughly enjoyed it every sandy step.


  1. I saw this one a while back and liked it a lot... more for the protagonist and her arc of survival than for the monster/horror element.
    The hints of what went on before are just right... intriguing suggestions of who she was and how she got here to contrast with who she is at the end of the movie.