The Sweet East
Onto the final MAMI release in what were the best 10 days of the year for me ending on Sunday, and I finished watching the new English film, The Sweet East. The film was sn absolute bonus given that this film did not quite feature in my list of ‘Must Watches’ at the MAMI Film Festival. It was only when I was reading about the film did I get to know that the film had premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes this year, something that did catch my attention while prompting me to give the film a shot. And it is the beauty of going into the film blind while allowing the film to surprise you, is something that I have been following recently. So then does The Sweet East manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
The Sweet East follows the story of a teenager who ditches her school group to take a trip along the east coast. And in doing so, she comes across people from different facets of life. The story here isn’t your conventional road trip template, it is trippy and provocative while highlighting the extreme culture of the people from the East Coast. The screenplay standing at 104 minutes is extremely niche and it may not appeal to everyone across the board. The humour is weird and the events are extremely in your face while the trip is consistently provocative!
The drama opens with the introduction of the protagonist who is shown to be in a slightly toxic relationship while soon freeing herself from her school group. Soon she encounters a man, almost twice her age undergoing a midlife crisis of sorts and a proud White Supremist who offers to provide her shelter. He almost begins imagining a life with the protagonist that would be similar to the characters of the novel Lolita, something that he had been reading. Yet, the writers do not restrict the conflict of the protagonist with respect to this one character, while she continues her journey after stealing his money.
The drama touches upon the different cultural references through the people that the protagonist meets along the way. So there are a Black filmmaker duo who seem to be welcoming towards the protagonist while casting her for a role in their film. There is a dry and almost satirical sense of humour to the proceedings that invariably makes the drama a niche. The pace of the drama is slightly inconsistent while also being inconsistent with the tone of the drama. For instance, there is a random shootout that takes place out of nowhere in which a bunch of people are randomly killed. This, while on either side of the event, the drama follows a comic tone.
The events leading up to the final act are interesting which the protagonist finding herself within a radicalized group who love their share of songs, to the tunes of which they dance to. The entire sequence leading to her eventual escape was engrossing and hilarious while going well with the vibe of the drama. The final act is almost an extention of the eccentric humour which is prevalent throughout the narrative, thus summing up the screenplay which is well written despite its flaws but extremely niche in nature.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are quirky and make for a solid impact. The BGM goes well with the vibe of the drama. The cinematography captures the ‘woke’ culture really well with some stunning frames that tend to capture your imagination. The editing could have been sharper, much sharper. Director Sean Price Williams does a good job in creating some wacky and trippy moments along the way for a rather unorthodox road trip. The direction was pretty good here.
The performances are excellent here by the ensemble cast. Jeremy Harris as Matthew and Ayo Edebiri as Molly have their moments to shine, as does Jacob Elordi as Ian who meets with a hilariously brutal fate. Rish Shah as Mohammed is first rate. Simon Rex as Lawrence makes his presence felt in an uptight but dignified character with White Supremist streaks. Talia Ryder as Lillian is the soul of the film and the drama unfolds through her gaze. She was incredibly good while understanding the intricacies of her character really well.
As a part of our MAMI coverage, The Sweet East is a provocative and trippy peak into the extreme culture of the East Coast which is niche in many ways but if you do get the gist of what the film is trying to communicate, you will end up liking it.