Kay, a very thin and unassertive young woman, works in a factory living a rather dreary life with her boyfriend Louis. Louis and Kay are rarely intimate, living more like brother and sister, and the arrival of Kay's sister, Sweetie, only exacerbates their relationship problems. Jan Campion's directorial debut, Sweetie, is a beguiling experience that is hard to quantify or explain, which could be its greatest strength. This is a film very much rooted in family dysfunction, showcasing how dysfunction that is not treated or taken care of can only cause further harm to a family unit. Sweetie suffers from a severe mental handicap, she is boisterous, frantic, and spontaneous, everything that Kay is not. While Kay suffers from spouts of extreme phobia, her sister holds onto her childhood dreams of being a performer. Their parents Gordon an Flo have separated, only pushing the family into even my dysfunction. The film is told almost entirely through the point of view of Kay, capturing the trauma her upbringing has had on her own mental state. In a way, Campion's Sweetie is really a film about the importance of parenting arguing that while Sweetie's mental issues are god-given, Kay's own mental anguish developed through years of never getting the proper support and attention from her parents. It's an interesting film to consume but I do think Campion could have done a little more to help flesh out this idea of nature vs. nurture. Sweetie is also a very well directed film, with heavy use of static compositions that capture the overly-structured and almost sterile viewpoint that Kay has developed about life. Featuring a fascinating story and strong performance, Sweetie is a truly unique experience but I never felt myself very connected to the characters on an emotional level.
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