Sweet Thing

Directed by Alexandre Rockwell
Film Movement
2020
91 Minutes
USA
English
Coming of Age, Drama
Not Rated

SWEET THING centers around the lives of two children in contemporary New Bedford, Massachusetts in particular one eventful summer spent in a beach house with their mother and her boyfriend. The story is an intense but ultimately uplifting, poetic rendering of childhood that captures the essence of that time in life when a day can last forever. The friendships, loyalties, and challenges of adolescent youth propel the story into a triumph of childhood hope and resilience.

The central character, Billie, is a 15-year-old girl who fantasizes Billie Holiday as a sort of fairy godmother. Billie has to navigate the evolving challenges of her life while she plays mother to her 11-year-old brother, Nico. They meet up with another adolescent, run away from home, and together roam the area free from their parents’ watchful eye. They discover freedom and enchantment among New Bedford’s boats and railway tracks. They fantasize about a life of luxury when they break into a posh home, and are able to carry the taste of affluence into their adventures. The film celebrates their ability to make poetry and a joyful life out of hardship. The children come to represent a hope in our own resilience, as the film is an ode to that trying age when young people prepare to take their first step into adulthood.

Director & Cast

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Reviews

  • "A lively, bittersweet meditation on an impoverished childhood that is still rich in innocence and imagination.... With verve and vitality it pays a dreamy-eyed retrospective debt to films past, and largely due to the beguiling performance from Rockwell’s own daughter Lana, ultimately delivers a moving, tousled journey of discovery...."
    Jessica Kiang, Variety
  • "Alexandre Rockwell’s Sweet Thing is one of the most powerful new films I’ve seen in years. The whole film has soul, but the fact that Rockwell didn’t go the easy way and shoot it on digital, but instead (like a real filmmaker) shot it on black and white 16mm film makes it a divine soul. But it’s the performance of his young leading lady Lana Rockwell that haunts you when the movie is over. Like the way she carries her dignity in her shoulders as she precariously maneuvers herself through the grueling tribulations that is her life, is how she carries both the film and the viewer through Rockwell’s terrain."
    Quentin Tarantino
  • "Achingly lovely.... Shot on stunning, super-high-contrast 16 mm black-and-white, with occasional color inserts matching the faded hues of memory.... At the calm center of it all is Lana Rockwell’s star-making performance as Billie. She’s got one of those faces the camera adores, with watchful eyes and an explosion of untamed curls atop her head stealing scenes from even the film’s veteran performers."
    Sean Burns, WBUR
  • "What makes this simple story special is the style that the writer and director Alexandre Rockwell brings to the screen. Rockwell intentionally reminds his audience of the rich history of American independent cinema, where filmmakers across decades have built dreamscapes out of the textures of everyday interactions."
    Teo Bugbee, The New York Times
  • "Shot in striking 16mm black-and-white, the coming-of-age film—Rockwell’s first feature since 2013—is an intimate story about childhood, connection, freedom, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive. Rockwell’s film is utterly gorgeous... Surely one of the most caring, tender films of the last year...."
    Michael Frank, The Film Stage
  • "A soulful, uplifting, but also heartbreaking look at race and poverty's impact on troubled childhood, Alexandre Rockwell's "Sweet Thing" is a welcome return to form for the accomplished indie filmmaker. "
    Travis Hopson, RogerEbert.com
  • "Rockwell’s film about specific heartbreaking circumstances is accessibly potent in its portrayal of childhood and memory. He taps into the experience of complex emotions – fear mixed with hope, love entangled with heartbreak, and childhood prematurely ripped away – in ways that exemplify the unique potential of cinema."
    Mary-Catherine Harvey, The Upcoming
  • "Gorgeous... stunningly rendered....this is a film that deserves to be seen. "
    Stephen Silver , Goomba Stomp
  • "[T]he black-and-white camerawork ... captivates with visual lyricism and nimble flow. These kids are always on the move, and the film’s best moments also are its most elemental: the physical beauty and emotional grace of its stars, bustling through grungy streets and lakeside idylls, crimes and misdemeanors, heartbreaks and soul-shouts, with the kinetic clip of a nouvelle vague flashback. Drama is generated by the great Will Patton, as an alcoholic dad whose ultimately kind heart can’t dispel his demons, and Karyn Parsons (Rockwell’s wife) as the kids’ mother...."
    Steve Dollar, Filmmaker Magazine
  • "Not since The Florida Project have I felt this emotional about a story of children forced to grow up way too fast. Stylistically, writer/director Rockwell shot on 16mm black and white film for a gritty, raw, and dark feel. It enhances the story beyond measure. Lana Rockwell shines and carries the story’s dramatic narrative. We have a star in the making here. I hope this review serves as a call to go out of one’s way and find your way to see Sweet Thing any way you can."
    Alan Ng, Film Threat
  • "Shot with a poetic glow that easily conjures up the timeless feel of European classics...."
    Felipe Freitas, Always Good Movies
  • "The use of black&white film--juxtaposed with color for some dream sequences (Lasse Tolbøll, cinematographer)--recalls Roma and other masterfully filmed stories."
    Wendy Shreve, Featuring Film